Old Chicago undergoes brand refresh, launches updated menu

May 24, 2013

Old Chicago Pasta & Pizza, founded in 1976 in Boulder, Colo., has undergone a brand refresh, which includes an enhanced service model and updated menu with more offerings.

The chain will now be called Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom and will embrace a neighborhood atmosphere and craft beer tavern, according to a company press release.

To ensure the brand refresh was executed correctly, Old Chicago engaged Boston Consulting Group in its research and planning process. Between $8 million and $10 million more will be allocated to update the remaining 52 company-owned restaurants, which should be fully completed by the end of September.

As part of the effort, Old Chicago is updating the look and feel of its restaurants. The tavern includes warm décor with light woods and clean metal accents blended together. According to the company, it's now a modern neighborhood eatery for all occasions.

Update led by new president

The update is more than two years in the making and is now headed by brand president Mike Mrlik. Mrlik joined Old Chicago, which is owned by parent company CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries Inc., in January to help expedite franchise growth opportunities.

Having previously been CEO of Mr. Gatti's and having several successful brand refreshes throughout his career, Mrlik has been instrumental in guiding the refresh.

"Refreshes often come with many challenges but we are very confident in our approach because this plan was a year in the making before any changes were made to the first test restaurant. The planning and development was thorough and thoughtful," Mrlik said.

The first test restaurant opened in Eden Prairie, Minn., and doubled sales that continued months later. This trend has been evidenced in other test stores as well.

"It proves the concept keeps our existing fans coming in while attracting a broader audience," Mrlik said.

New menu

Additionally, Old Chicago partnered with Lettuce Entertain You and added 40-plus new menu choices. The revised and expanded offering includes salads, Panini, classic Italian pastas and shareable appetizers for the dining room or bar. There is also a new Tavern Thin Crust Pizza in addition to the signature deep dish pizza offering.

Food is prepared with a made-from-scratch philosophy. All dough is made in house every morning and toppings are prepped daily. The revised menu is engineered to mesh with revised kitchen layouts, technologies and processes to facilitate faster service and turnaround.

There are also 36 beers on tap, at least 25 of which are craft beers from local and regional breweries. Combined with bottled brews, guests have up to 85 choices. Exclusive, local, and seasonal beers will rotate throughout the year.

Bartenders received enhanced training on all things related to beer and brewing and management and staff are trained to be knowledgeable advisors in every beer lover's tour of local, domestic and imported brews.

"The enhanced appearance, food, and beer choices are all part of the brand's updated approach to craveable pizza and craft beer. Our refresh centers on providing great meals and great times, serving delicious food crafted by hand and heart, and exploring the world through beers brewed with artistry," Mrlik said.

Read more about marketing and branding efforts.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Food & Beverage, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Operations Management, Staffing & Training

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