Highland Ventures uses its expanding real estate portfolio to build and sustain profitable business operations 

As one of America’s fastest growing family-owned venture management companies, Highland Ventures is home to hundreds of restaurants and commercial units across 19 states. Ben Hoogland and McLain Hoogland, Joint Vice Presidents, share the company’s story. “Our company was started by my great grandfather, Clarence Hoogland, who passed the business to my grandfather, my father, and now my brother and I. Highland Ventures was originally started as Mid-State Appliance in Springfield, Illinois. When our grandfather joined the business, he launched Family Video in 1978, which became the third largest video chain in the US with over 800 locations. In 2012, we partnered with Marco’s Pizza under the Hoogland Restaurant Group name and became the largest franchisee with over 120 locations. Our grandfather had the idea to buy all the properties for Family Video, giving us the opportunity to convert that business into a true commercial real estate company called Legacy Commercial Property. Highland Ventures is now a national venture management company focused on strategically developing and operating businesses centered around our real estate,” the brothers begin.

“I started in a few of our smaller companies and helped facilitate their sale,” explains McLain. “Then I moved into Hoogland Restaurant Group in 2016. Over the next two years I reorganized the structure of the company and moved into the role of President. Since Ben joined the business, we have been focused on improving Highland Ventures’ operations through investments in technology and people.” 

“When I came to Highland,” adds Ben. “I worked in operations and then shifted into Legacy Commercial Property where I work on acquisitions, development, and company strategy. Next up is the launch of Intune Physical Therapy, which we are all really excited about. Coming into the company, a big focus is on learning all of Highland’s businesses. As we shifted into joint vice presidency positions, you learn how to view the business as a whole and what’s best for Highland Ventures, not just the real estate business or the restaurant business.” 

Significant growth 

With a focus on strategic development, Highland Ventures has been able to establish Hoogland Restaurant Group as one of the largest dine-in pizza franchises in the US. A household name amongst many, Marco’s Pizza is just the beginning for Highland Ventures, as it branches out into new markets and gives back to local communities through ongoing philanthropic work.  

Remaining dedicated to its core values and a ‘can-do’ attitude has ensured significant growth for Highland Ventures over the past few years. In 2023, the company opened 18 new locations, and moved its headquarters to Nashville, Tennessee, where it was able to bring 40 new employees into the family business. With a dedicated staff, and plenty of momentum, the company is now managing the transition into new markets. “We are looking for high visibility locations in high growth areas. Our goal for Hoogland Restaurant Group is to add 20 locations again this year,” McLain elaborates. “We are opening locations in Tulsa, Louisville, and Kansas City in the next couple of months. The move to Nashville has been great for the company. We have been able to attract many more quality people and it has really helped with the growth of the organization.” 

“The move to Nashville came at a great time for the company,” adds Ben. “We were shifting away from being Family Video and into becoming Highland Ventures. This meant we needed to continue to evolve our teams, our culture, and our processes. Nashville allowed us to continue to grow, hire great new people, and keep pushing the business forward.” 

Creative problem solving

Striving to be better, brighter, and faster than anyone else has helped Highland Ventures stay one step ahead in the competitive world of food service. Using their experience in other sectors, Highland Venture’s leadership team applied tried-and-true management techniques to the Marco’s Pizza brand. This means rewarding teamwork, work ethic, determination, family-values and, of course, a good helping of fun. Known for promoting internally, Highland Ventures looks for individuals with the right attitude, and creates clear paths for professional growth within the business. As a family-owned operation, one of its core values is work-life-balance. Providing its employees with the freedom to grow and develop in and out of work has ensured the longevity of Highland Ventures’ success.  

“We really focus on hard work and something that we call PS squared, which stands for problem spotting-problem solving,” shares McLain. “We want to be the type of people that can think creatively, spot problems and not just point them out but, work with the team to solve them.” 

“As McLain says,” Ben continues, “we want to stay true to our entrepreneurial spirit and look for people who can think creatively. As leaders, we try to be direct and honest with our communication and really believe in the importance of genuine connection within the team. Above all else, we look for people who care and have pride in their work.”  

Community commitment 

Continual growth and development are a vital part of Highland Venture’s mission. Staying close to the family values upon which the company was founded, each Highland Ventures brand creates exciting and challenging careers for its employees. Despite going through numerous evolutions, the company’s mission has remained the same: Strive to grow. Whether that’s growing its staff, helping build up local communities, or furthering the reach of its brands, Highland Ventures is dedicated to ongoing improvement.  

Building and sustaining a profitable portfolio of brands and real estate over 75 years is no easy feat. To ensure the longevity of Highland Ventures’ success, the leadership team established four core values: problem solving, adaptability, dedication and communication. Not only do these values keep Highland Ventures at the top of its game, but they support the company’s community ventures – which has always been an important part of Highland Ventures’ DNA. The Hoogland Restaurant Group works with surrounding towns and cities and employs dedicated community outreach teams to manage and sponsor citywide events, host ‘School Box Nights’, and donate free food to local charities. What’s more, Marco’s Pizza openly invites partnerships with nonprofit organizations to further support the wider community. 

Major developments are on the horizon for Highland Ventures in 2024. “We want to continue to grow across all of our businesses,” McLain asserts. “That means both driving revenue through organic growth, adding good people, opening new locations, and increasing efficiency. We have made a big effort to set goals around the number of new Hoogland Restaurant Group locations opened, real estate acquisitions made, leases signed, and profitability. A big goal of ours is to launch our Intune Physical Therapy brand. But really, we want to continue to improve as a company. The goal for us is to be the largest operating property company in the Midwest and Mid-South. This means we’d like to be entrepreneurial and continue to add brands into our company. In five years, we want to have grown Hoogland Restaurant Group, Legacy Commercial Property, and launched Intune successfully, and even added another business,” he concludes.