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. 

The update, is more than two years in the making, is now headed by brand president Mike Mrlik,who joined Old Chicago 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.

“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, Minnesota, 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,” Mrlik says.

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 over 40 new menu choices. The revised and expanded offering includes salads, paninis, 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.

“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 says.




Industry News, Restaurant Design