ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Dallas-based buffet chain CiCi's Pizza wants to add 25 stores in and around St. Louis over the next six years.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the first of the new stores will open March 31, said Mark McIntosh of Kolander Group, a Dallas-based investment group backing the expansion. McIntosh said the group plans to open as many as six restaurants this year, but no other leases have been signed.

CiCi's presently has one store in the St. Louis area, and another in nearby Farmington, Mo. Both are run by another franchisee.

According to Joe Flanigan, CiCi's vice president of marketing, the company has 420 restaurants in 20 states. The chain began expanding with one- or two-restaurant franchises, but decided to seek multi-unit franchises in 2000.

McIntosh said Kolander Group chose St. Louis for expansion because of its "good Midwestern town personality."

CiCi's founder and president Joe Croce announced in February that he is selling his company to its current management team and will leave his post effective July 1. (See "CiCi's Pizza founder insisted sale be an inside deal.")

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