CiCi’s Pizza pulled the wraps off a remodeled restaurant this month that features a new “Create Your Own Pizza” station and expanded entrée salads, in addition to its traditional all-you-can-eat buffet.

Coppell-based CiCi’s re-opened the remodeled restaurants in The Colony, Texas, on July 19. The design features an expanded beverage bar, a visible kitchen and a dining room with new finishes, lighting and more communal dining tables.

The Colony unit is one evolution of the company’s efforts to enhance quality, service and cleanliness and franchisee profitability, said Darin Harris, CiCi’s chief executive. Harris has been leading the company since August 2013.

“The Colony [unit] is really a greenhouse for us to roll out some ideas to see how they stick for the future,” Harris said, in an interview Friday. “This is just the beginning of more to come, such as our digital marketing platforms, our quality initiatives and our cleanliness initiatives.”

The new unit showcases the buffet in an area called the “Pizza Counter,” which Harris said is unique to CiCi’s.

“We also wanted to add the pizzas they can customize and have made in front of them in the Chipotle-style of going down the line and picking their toppings,” Harris said, adding that CiCi’s also expanded its salad offerings with four entrée salads, which are custom-made in the restaurant as well.

“Before we were just one thing: a buffet,” he said. “Now we give guests choices that give them options for different dining occasions.” The “Create Your Own” and salads are in their own areas as well.

Each has its own lines. “It’s a great freshness cue that the pizzas and salads are made right in front of you,” he said.

Harris said management is working to convert CiCi’s customers from light users to medium or heavy users.

“Appealing to a broader demographic is what we are really focused on,” he said. “We’re trying to bring in the opportunity for different occasions and expand and broaden the guest base.”

CiCi’s traditionally been known for its “endless pizza,” which now ranges from $5.29 to $5.59, depending on the market.

Décor changes were intended to make it more contemporary, Harris said. “It incorporates the community tables, and a key feature is the pizza oven, where they can see the pizza being made. The kitchen design gives guests a view of the dough room, where they can see the product being made by hand.”

Harris said some of the ideas in this renovated restaurant, which is a corporate-owned unit, may be incorporated into other remodels and new units as well.

“We’ve seen our franchisees and our customers react very positively,” Harris said, adding that same-store sales have increased 5.9 percent year-to-date compared with the same period last year, and traffic is up 6.5 percent in the same comparison period.

CiCi’s Pizza, which opened its first restaurant in Plano, Texas, in 1985, has 19 corporate-owned and -operated stores and 465 units in total. It operates 34 states.

Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@Penton.com
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