Mici Handcrafted Italian has seven units in the Denver area. The company is poised for growth and plans to double in size in 2022.
Mici Italian turns 18 this year, and the family-friendly, fast-casual concept is growing. Based on old world recipes developed by their father, Jeff, Michael and Kim Miceli founded the restaurant in 2004. Today, Mici Italian has seven locations in Colorado and plans to double in size by the end of 2022 .
“What I think is really unique about Mici is that it’s not an overnight sensation,” Mici Italian chief growth officer Matt Staton said in a phone interview. “It’s not built by some kind of corporate formula. … It’s really a labor of love over two decades, but the brand has been constantly evolving. We stay true to our food, original recipes, and that’s really what makes Mici what it is.”
The business has an AUV of around $1.2 million and pizza can account for up to 70% of sales depending on location. It’s New York style pizza, but the focused menu also includes pastas and salads.
“As customers really want good food but really appreciate speed and convenience,” Stanton said. “Mici has evolved to really embrace both of those aspects.”
Stanton credits Jeff Miceli with perfecting the company’s fast casual operations. Restaurants can go from order to table in about 10 minutes, and order at home for delivery in 30 minutes.
“Unlike a lot of players in the pizza business, we’re able to really deliver that quick casual experience in New York-style pizza, which is pretty rare. … Mici kind of merged those where we we can deliver a really, really good product that’s quick for the customer while maintaining family restaurant quality,” Stanton said.
The New York-style pizza also travels well, giving Mici Italian a bargain offsite. Stanton said the business thrives on on-site dining, but also excels at pickup and delivery.
Mici Italian has its own staff of delivery drivers, which it had before the pandemic, and the business has been successful during COVID-19 as it has been able to deliver hungry diners unable to eat in restaurants.
“For a decade or more, that’s been a big part of the brand,” Stanton said. “The reason is that we have tried (third party delivery services)…but with most of them we use our own delivery drivers so we can deliver a GrubHub order…but we do it because we want that our customers have a very good quality pizza.”
Stanton said the brand had third-party delivery drivers pick up orders without hot bags to deliver the food, which dramatically changes the outcome. It won’t be a good product if it sits in a car seat for 15 minutes, he said, and Mici Italian takes its quality seriously.
“A big part of our push in using our own delivery drivers is that we can ensure speed of service, we can ensure everything is delivered in a quality way and what stays hot stays hot and what stays cool stays cool. “, added Stanton. .
The company’s main primary customer, Stanton said, are young and middle-aged families and retirees who appreciate quality food. Beer and wine are available, but the business is not a bar concept.
“We have an ice cream counter, not a bar,” Stanton added. “When the kids come in, that’s probably their favorite part.”
On the menu
Pizza remains the priority at Mici Italian, although pasta and salads remain popular sides. The brand started with the sauce and dough made in-house, and the dough is still made on site with a 48-hour ferment through a rigorous process. The sauces are now formulated in a commissary according to the original recipes. “It helps ensure consistency across locations and it helps with our scaling efforts,” Stanton said.
Cheese is grated and vegetables and meats are cut in-house, and the company doesn’t want long, labor-intensive cooking processes to focus on the customer and make great food. Items are cut and processed during off-peak times with one or two people, saving labor costs even though they can do a lot in restaurants.
“We build our operations around prep during the in between times. Either way, we need to have staff in the restaurant during those times,” Stanton said. “You kind of prepare these stations and when it’s time to generate income, it’s about preparing the food.
“It allows us to not have a lot of stress in our restaurants. A big part of the labor costs is having a lot of turnover in your restaurants. We can manage very profitable hours and it doesn’t feel stressful in our restaurants. …plus, we really appreciate this family culture.”
In the first half of 2022, Mici Italian plans to expand to Phoenix, Dallas and Michigan in the greater Detroit area.
“Mici has been very diligent in establishing a solid foundation on which to grow,” Stanton said, adding that some brands envision growth as they expand, but Mici Italian deliberately calculated that its growth would be slow. as it builds its systems.
“For a small brand, we have a leg up on brands much bigger than us,” Stanton said, as the company didn’t want to grow until those milestones were in place.
Mici Italian plans to expand outside of Colorado through franchising, but remains company-owned in the state. Stanton expects the business to double by 2022 if it doesn’t expand further.
“We have all the brand fundamentals. Now is the time to evolve the brand,” Stanton said.
Brand CEO Elliot Schiffer, who has extensive restaurant experience, arrived four years ago, and Stanton said it would have been easy for him to get started with rapid expansion plans. Instead, he wanted to build a solid foundation on which the business could grow.
They wanted to make sure the formula was replicable at the corporate level for franchisees to succeed before accelerating growth. The current franchisees are all experienced restaurateurs. The brand is looking for franchisees with experience and the ability to own a market or a substantial part of a market.
“I think we’ve all seen so many brands that grow to a certain point and then crumble. They hit a plateau,” Stanton said. “Things are not in place. There’s a lot of things they didn’t understand and we didn’t want that to be Mici’s story. We wanted our franchisees to have the best chance of success. … We sort of run our business structure like our restaurants – it can get busy. A lot is going on, but it’s fluid. It’s controlled. Just one foot in front of the other because the systems and processes are developed.