Uno Restaurants launch 'suburban' fast casual pizza concept

Aug. 15, 2014 | by Nicole Troxell

Uno Restaurant Holdings Corp. recently launched its own fast casual concept, UNO fresco.

UNO fresco emerged out of the same companies that brought Uno Pizzeria and Grill and Uno Dué Go. Chris Westcott, vice president of Uno Dué Go, said that UNO fresco was designed to offer the same quality of food in a faster environment at an affordable price. The company plans to open seven more locations through 2015. spoke to Westcott about the new brand, how it differs from other fast casual concepts and how it will leverage the parent company's size and resources. How/why did Uno decide to jump into the fast casual space?

Chris Westcott: Uno has been in the fast casual segment with Uno Due Go in an urban setting in downtown Boston since 2011. Uno fresco is the suburban evolution of that program. How does the concept differentiate itself from other fast casual restaurants?

CW: Service, environment, variety and offering craft beer and wine. We are an order-at-the-counter model yet we deliver the hot, fresh food items to each table, elevating service over traditional fast casual operations. In addition to deep dish pizza, which we invented in 1943, we also feature artisan thin crust pizza, customized salads, Panini and pasta. What are the advantages to a fast casual pizza system and how does it work?

CW: By offering the same quality products in a faster service environment while eliminating the tipped service component, we are able to provide a dining experience that is not a significant drop off from casual dining at a much more affordable price to the consumer.

For Uno, there is the obvious ability to capitalize on our product line and brand equity.

It only takes about one-third of the capital that it would take to construct a full-service casual dining location. This is largely based on size and simplicity of the overall program. How will Uno use its brand power?

CW:We have connected Uno fresco to Uno Pizzeria & Grill through naming, but there are several key connection points in the design, décor and menu offerings as well. There is significant brand equity with Uno and we intend to connect the dots for our loyal consumers as well as introduce new guests to the brand. What is Uno fresco's marketing hook?

CW:Craveable food at an affordable price.

Franchising is part of our strategy for 2015. We will launch that effort and look for quality partners to join the family. Regarding existing franchisees, they have seen this product and some have expressed interest. How many units are you aiming for?

CW: We have two additional units in the pipeline to finish out 2014 and plan five additional units in 2015, along with the launch of the franchise sales effort. Long term, we expect for the brand to be a blend of company owned and franchise locations as we believe it is important for us to operate alongside our franchise partners. How does your model differ between the two brands?

CW:Uno Pizzeria & Grill is a full-service casual dining concept featuring a full bar and a diverse menu. Uno fresco offers the same great deep dish pizza with a more abbreviated menu. However, the interior has been designed to shift from lunch to dinner, offering an evening dining experience with softer lighting, beer and wine and music to complement the experience. How will labor be set up at Uno?

CW: We will operate the typical fresco with a general manager and one assistant manager. We will also identify an individual to aid in catering sales and local store marketing. A full-service restaurant is 6,000 square feet , while fresco is 3,000 to 3,500 square feet. The menu is a simpler version so the kitchen is smaller, leading to a more efficient labor profile. All positions are guest facing; prep is done on the line, visible to the guest, and speed of service is very important to the brand. How will the company avoid cannibalizing customers from each concept?

CW:We are very mindful of the potential impact on existing Uno Pizzeria & Grill locations, but recognize there are many locations where Uno fresco will complement existing locations. So, we will branch out into new territory and look at locations that complement existing operations.

Photo courtesy of Tim Hohm.

Topics: Franchising & Growth, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Operations Management

Nicole Troxell
Nicole’s work has appeared in business, education, technical, and travel publications. She is currently the editor of and wwwView Nicole Troxell's profile on LinkedIn

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