Financing

Uno to sell frozen pizza business to Great Kitchens Food Co.

The pizza chain is spinning off the 35-year-old Uno Foods so it can focus more on franchising.
Pizzeria Uno sign
Uno began selling frozen pizzas in 1988. / Photograph: Shutterstock

Pizzeria Uno is selling its frozen pizza business as it turns its focus to franchising.

Great Kitchens Food Co., part of private-equity firm Brynwood Partners, is acquiring Uno Foods for an undisclosed price, Uno announced Wednesday.

Boston-based Uno started selling frozen pizzas in 1988 to satisfy customers who wanted to take the brand’s Chicago-style deep-dish pizza home with them. It initially ran the operation out of its restaurants before opening a manufacturing facility in Brockton, Mass., for wider distribution.

Today, about 6,000 outlets carry Uno frozen pizzas, which account for about a quarter of the company’s revenue, said CEO Erik Frederick. 

But as Uno has ramped up its franchising strategy recently, it decided to consolidate its efforts.

“We are fundamentally a restaurant company focused on running restaurants and franchising restaurants,” Frederick said. “Having a manufacturing operation, it took a little bit of our focus away and frankly wasn’t one of our core capabilities, so it just made sense for us to sell to Brynwood Partners.”

Uno believes it has found a stellar partner in Brynwood and Great Kitchens, which already manufactures frozen pizzas at a plant in Chicago, where Uno was founded in 1943. “They fundamentally get our brand,” Frederick said.

Uno will maintain some oversight of its frozen counterpart. If Great Kitchens wanted to add a new flavor, for instance, it would have to get approval from the restaurant company. But “they have every intention in keeping Uno a premium product,” Frederick said.

The 80-unit chain’s franchising push has targeted hotels, where it’s aiming to convert full-service dining rooms into Unos. It added five new locations last year and expects to add 10 this year.

“We’re definitely returning to growth, and frankly that takes focus,” Frederick said.

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