Fazoli's to lift the napkin off a new, more upscale Italian brand

Fazoli’s is stratifying the Italian fast-casual market with the spin-off of a new concept positioned upmarket from its sister.

Still unnamed, the upstart brand will aim for a higher average ticket, a reflection of its more sophisticated ambience and culinary flare, according to Fazoli’s CEO and president Carl Howard.

The serving line is Chipotle-like. Customers choose one of three carriers (a sandwich called a piada; a salad bowl; or a salad bowl), then a protein, a sauce, any of 23 add-ins, and, finally, a hand-grated, shredded or crumbled cheese topping.

“Because we have the three menu platforms, we can offer guests a Chipotle, Chopped or great Italian experience, all in one place,”  said Howard.

The concept will also feature bottled beer and tap wine, as well as Italian sodas dispensed from a self-serve fountain.

Patrons can also order sides like Fried Polenta and Focaccia Sticks.

Howard said the name is still being cleared legally, but will consist of “something 23 Modern Italian, with the something yet to be determined.” He explained that the 23 refers to the number of mix-ins that are stocked on the prep line.

The new brand will not be affiliated with Fazoli’s, which will continue to expand, said Howard. Both brands will be franchised.

He forecasts a check average for the Modern Kitchen concept in the $9 to $10 range, compared with the average per-person transaction at Fazoli’s of $6.50.

Development costs should fall near $500,000, for a restaurant measuring 2,800 to 3,200 sq. ft., according to the business plan.

“A year form now, I will have two [Modern Kitchens] open, with five additional sites under development,” said Howard.

Fazoli’s, meanwhile, is resuming its expansion after a period of contraction. He forecast a net addition of five units or so, which would bring the store tally for that brand to “the low 220s.”

He said that concept is back on its feet, with positive results in 10 of the last 11 quarters. Comp sales are up 6 percent in May, Howard noted.



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