Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, a leader in casual dining known for its delicious, handcrafted pizza, distinctive taproom fare, and vast craft beer selection, announced that its franchise partners are reinvesting an average of $150,000 into refreshing 37 existing franchised restaurants. This effort comes as part of the brand’s commitment to enhancing the customer experience and providing high quality service, and will include renovations to the interior and exterior of existing franchised restaurants, as well as upgrades to the dining room and beer equipment that reinforce Old Chicago’s leading position in the booming craft beer segment.
“Old Chicago had a tremendous year last year as we experienced unprecedented growth, opened new restaurants across the country and introduced the concept to a half dozen new markets,” says Mike Mrlik, president of Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom. “We’re still riding the momentum and have full support from our network of franchisees. They believe in the brand wholeheartedly and because of their unwavering passion, decided to embark on this reinvestment initiative to reinvigorate their restaurants to match the unparalleled service and high quality products our customers have come to know us for. This effort solidifies our standout position in the marketplace, and we look forward to treating guests of Old Chicago to a new and improved experience as we continue to complete renovations system-wide.”
With the refresh, Old Chicago restaurants will feature upgrades to its beer equipment and systems, including the tap tower, glass mug coolers, stainless glass storage cabinet and stein racks, as well as spritzers and chillers that ensure every craft beer is served perfectly. The restaurants will also now display its beer menu on a mounted 60-inch LCD screen showcasing Old Chicago’s expansive selection of 36 to 50 craft beers on tap depending on location, with a rotating selection dedicated to local breweries within each market. Each location has a unique lineup, contributing to Old Chicago’s position as a leader in craft beer sales. As part of the refresh, the service team will also undergo extensive beer training, enhancing Old Chicago team member’s expertise in craft beer.
Additional interior renovations include front-of-the-house upgrades to its wall signage and décor, a fresh paint pallet, new tabletops and bases, backless barstools and a community table that seats up to 20. Old Chicago’s exteriors will display an updated logo sign as well as a new exterior monument to enhance the overall appearance of the restaurants. To complement the new design elements, the company is now working with Open Table and using its software for all reservation systems. Old Chicago’s franchisees are confident that this effort will provide guests a fresh environment and reinforce the brand’s position as The Craft Beer Authority.
John Johnson has been an Old Chicago franchisee for more than a decade, and has already completed the refresh at two of his restaurants in Montana. His location in Billings, one of the first to complete in March 2015, continues to run over double digit positive comp sales more than a year later. Johnson’s restaurant in Bozeman is experiencing the same surge, and is expected to continue on that path even after it hits the one-year refresh mark this July. He will begin the refresh process at his Casper, Wyoming, location later this year.
“This effort has had a direct impact on sales in my Montana restaurants,” adds Johnson. “The new furniture fixtures, softer paint pallet, bar updates and addition of a covered patio have given Old Chicago a modern look and clean design, and completely elevated the overall experience for my customers.”
Old Chicago experienced record-breaking success in 2015, achieving $254 million in system-wide revenue and 20 consecutive months of positive comp sales. Old Chicago also launched its new restaurant prototype—a 5,000-square-feet build with an additional 1,000—1,200 square feet of outdoor patio space, a new kitchen and upgraded bar technology. To further enhance the experience, the company has also updated its training programs and guest proven menu categories. A growing brand with over 16 years of successful franchise partnerships, Old Chicago is an established multi-unit concept with proven processes to support franchisees with site selection, lease agreements, facility design, operational training and marketing. To fuel franchise growth, the company is seeking multi-unit operators with business, management and foodservice and/or restaurant experience, and a passion for and commitment to exceptional customer service.