Yet his sophisticated marketing program-which relies heavily on TV and direct mail, an innovative mix for Spain-helped double TelePizza's sales to an estimated $55 million in 1993.
He hopes to repeat that growth both this year and next, and by the year 2000 he is planning for TelePizza to have 10,000 outlets around the world, an ambitious goal since the chain operates 130 stores.
The company already was the market leader in Spain and growing when Mr. Rodriguez, 27, joined the home delivery and in-store pizza restaurant chain in June of last year, but it had only a slim lead over Pizza World, and Pizza Hut was starting to make a major push in home delivery.
"I took the job because it was a tremendous challenge," Mr. Rodriguez said of the post that was created to set up a department, which now employs 15.
TelePizza now leads its closest competitor Pizza Hut with a market share of more than 40% to Pizza Hut's 20%. Pizza World has an estimated 15%.
Prior to his arrival, marketing primarily involved sending out menus to nearby residents. Armed with an advertising and promotion budget estimated at $6 million, Mr. Rodriguez has added TV, including sponsorships daily of cartoons on national TV networks, and has heavily involved children by creating the Magic School kids' club, which has become the largest of its type in Spain in terms of membership, he said.
"Children are crucial for the present and crucial for the future," said Mr. Rodriguez.
When joining, children receive a free video of magic tricks. They can then get the paraphernalia for one trick free for every two pizza purchases. TelePizza stores offer up a staffer to perform magic at birthday parties when the food is bought from TelePizza, and a traveling magician, TeleMago, performs around the country at special shows.
The cartoon sponsorship consists of a 12-sec. animated spot at the start and end of each half-hour show with one to three 20-sec. spots during the program. The opening spot shows kids at home awaiting the delivery of their pizza with Pizzoletto, a special kid character wearing a red cap, red over-alls, white shirt, shoes and gloves.
They welcome the pizza with shouts of "Oh, it's TelePizza." The spots within the program vary promoting Magic School and birthday party magicians, for example. At the end of the program, the kids again are seen saying, "I want more."
Almost all advertising has been created in-house. Mr. Rodriguez assigned a freelance project to an agency, La Banda de Agustin Medina, only once, in March.
Different live action TV spots run during popular soccer programming to appeal to the Generation X crowd while still other spots are aimed at young mothers on women's programming.
Direct mail is also key. Tele-Pizza blankets the areas near its stores with coupons and menus. All are tagged, "The secret is in the dough."
A recent coupon, for example, makes a two-for-one offer, which Mr. Rodriguez said was the country's first for pizza.
Outside Spain is where Tele-Pizza sees even more opportunity. The company is also the No. 1 pizza marketer in Portugal with only 11 restaurants, and has a toehold in Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Greece, Mexico and Poland, with 26 restaurants.
"When I started in the company, people were very surprised by my [management] style. It was very different, very American, very aggressive," he said with a laugh, but not surprising since he earned an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan and later was marketing director for Conagra's Healthy Choice line.
But most of his moves are simply good business.
"When [multinationals] come to Spain or some other country less developed than the U.S., they think the people have different values," he said. "They can have different tastes but there are values that are the same wherever you are."