A Denver-based Italian restaurant chain has $1 million in fresh backing and a new CEO as it looks to add franchises and push into new territory.
Mici Handcrafted Italian was started 13 years ago in Denver by siblings Jeff, Michael and Kim Miceli. Since then, the fast casual restaurant has grown to four locations in the metro area. The next goal is to start franchising.
This month the company hired Elliot Schiffer as CEO. Schiffer, 34, got his MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and previously worked as a senior vice president at Smashburger, where he opened 21 franchise locations for the burger chain.
“I went to business school to take a business to the national level,” he said.
Schiffer said Mici plans to add two to five stores per year and will start franchising in the next year or two. The company is hunting for real estate in Denver for corporate-owned stores.
To become a national chain, Mici first will start franchising in states neighboring Colorado.
Schiffer said the franchising route lets the company find partners with knowledge of the local food and real estate markets.
“If you are a good franchisor, customers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” he said.
In preparation for the expansion, Schiffer is focusing on streamlining store operations by creating checklists, training guides and recipes.
“I don’t think we can franchise before we are highly systemized,” he said. “When you franchise you sell a system, product and brand.”
The company recently sold $1 million in equity to 13 investors, according to SEC filings. The money will go toward opening the new franchises.
Schiffer first came across Mici as a customer after moving to Denver in 2012, and liked the restaurant’s family feel.
He said Mici is a blend of the fast causal world and quick-service pizza delivery world. Half of the restaurant’s volume is consumed outside the store through delivery, takeout and catering.
“I think that gives us an advantage as far as the sales picture,” he said. “There aren’t many concepts that do that.”