Cicis Pizza last month took the wraps off a new brand image that culminates the past year of reassessing where the buffet brand should be headed, CEO Darin Harris said during a tour of the updated restaurant in Frisco, Texas.

Harris, who leads Coppell, Texas-based Cicis, said the redesign of a restaurant that initially opened in 2009 brings together the refreshed format and offerings the 446-unit chain expects to deliver in newer restaurants.

“The entire design is totally different and matches the brand vision,” Harris said. “Our guests want to have an environment that has color, warmth and fun.” 

Bright red tiles have replaced yellow walls at the entrance, and the older colors of hunter green, mustard yellow and burgundy have shifted to what Harris called a more “vibrant” palette of oranges and greens “to communicate fresh.”

New salad bar equipment was added with light-emitting diode lighting “to really make it pop,” Harris said.

The open dining room has been divided with colorful partial walls. 

Cicis remodeled dining room now includes regular and bar-height seating with dividers.

“You used to walk in and it looked like a cafeteria with a sea of tables,” Harris said. “What we wanted to do was create different little environments where people and families could connect.” 

A party table was added in the back near a new game room, which is divided from the dining room by a glass window so parents can watch their children.

“In the past, the game room was added on as a way for operators to earn some additional money,” Harris explained. “But going forward, the brand standard will include the separate area and games that will be wrapped to match the décor.”

Seating remained nearly the same, at about 200, Harris said. And bar-height tables and chairs were added, which will remain part of the design going forward. 

“We also added a few booths along with the different levels,” he said.

The design still allows staff visibility of the entire dining room, Harris said.

The company has also highlighted the freshness of buffet, permanently adding stuffed-crust pizza, which had been a limited-time offer earlier, and flatbreads to the lineup. 

The flatbreads, added in early March, are offered in chicken bacon club, spinach alfredo and honey barbecue chicken flavors.

“Other restaurants offer individual flatbreads at premium pricing, which can increase the risk of order regret. That’s never an issue at Cicis — you can try all three new flavors along with all your other favorites for just $5 and change,” Sarah McAloon, Cicis chief marketing officer, said of the new platform debut.

Cicis also added a system of electronic monitors on the backside of the buffet that provide timing and color alerts for each of the offerings and help the staff trim food costs, Harris said.

Convection cooking equipment has been added in the back of the house to make pasta preparation faster, Harris said. 

Seven Cicis units have been upgraded with parts of the new prototype look, Harris said. The company has also added self-bussing areas in the restaurant. 

“Our cleanliness scores went up overnight,” Harris said. “It’s also a way for us to offset labor as well.”

“It’s all about how you are positioning the brand in the guests’ minds,” he said. “For us, it’s about the dining experience being matched — and exceeded — by what we offer.”

Last year, Cicis also introduced a new “My Cicis” mobile app that offers a free adult buffet after four paid visits. 

In January, Cicis said same-store sales growth helped it reach its highest annual average unit volume in at least two decades, breaking the $1 million level. The weekly average unit volumes grew to $19,400, the company said. 

Cicis has restaurants in 33 states.

Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@Penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless