Founded in 1976 in Boulder, Colo., with three decades of success and a loyal following, Old Chicago Pasta & Pizza has refreshed its brand to deliver a more modern and robust dining experience. Rebranded as Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, the neighborhood restaurant and craft beer tavern has added progressive touches, an enhanced service model and an updated menu with wider and deeper offerings.
In addition, Old Chicago is updating the look and feel of the restaurant atmosphere. The fresh-faced tavern is stylish and warm; light woods and clean metal accents blend together for an enticing, authentic feel. It’s a modern neighborhood eatery for all occasions, attracting a wide array of customers.
The update is more than two years in the making and 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 is well versed in this area of business and has been instrumental in guiding Old Chicago’s brand 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. The first test restaurant in Eden Prairie, Minn. celebrated doubled sales that continued months later, a trend that other test stores have since displayed. It proves the concept keeps our existing fans coming in while attracting a broader audience,” said Mrlik.
Being certain a refresh achieves and maintains successful results is always a challenge, but Old Chicago has seen significant top-line increases, not just from corporate locations, but from franchisees as well which speaks to the strategic steps taken to rollout the refreshed look and menu.
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.
Additionally, Old Chicago partnered with Lettuce Entertain You and added 40+ new menu choices. The revised and expanded offering includes salads, panini’s, 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.
The brand, having always specialized in beer, continues to be regarded as a “craft beer authority.” Guests will find 36 taps, at least 25 of which are craft beers from local and regional breweries. Combined with bottled brews, guests have up to 85 choices, which makes the staff’s input in guiding pairings even more valuable. 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,” said Mrlik.
Old Chicago Chief Marketing Officer Carrie Kleban agrees. “This is the new era of Old Chicago. We spared no expense, and it’s already proven to be a success. The restored concept keeps the attitude and reliability our existing fans love, but it also adds a level of interest and modern style to attract first time guests. This is a place that fulfills cravings for flavor and community, where everyone is welcome to relax and reconnect with friends and family,” Kleban said.
Founded in 1976 in Boulder, Colo., Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom is a leader in traditional casual dining. A recently revitalized menu is crafted with shareable appetizers, salads with homemade dressing, deep dish and thin crust pizzas and fresh toppings. The brand’s menu includes more than 40+ updated and redeveloped options with carefully chosen ingredients prepared daily and expertly combined to deliver memorable tastes guests will crave.
Old Chicago is an expert in craft beer, encouraging guests to explore 85 choices of draft and bottled local, domestic, and imported brews. Specialty glasses shaped for each beer style, the highest quality draft equipment available, digital beer boards boasting the best seasonal brews, and highly trained beer experts combine to make a visit to Old Chicago the ultimate beer lover experience. For more information, visit www.ocfranchising.com.