Mici signs first franchise agreement and hires growth manager
Mici Handcrafted Italian, a 6-unit Denver-based fast food chain, signed its first franchise agreement, which also marks its first move outside of Colorado, and hired a new executive to oversee the chain’s expansion.
Matt Stanton is stepping down as Director of Development for WellBiz Brands, a franchisor of health and wellness concepts, to join Mici as Director of Growth, effective next week.
Stanton previously held franchise development positions at Taco Bueno and Smashburger. At Smashburger, he worked with Elliot Schiffer, CEO of Mici since 2017.
The 30 unit deal in Phoenix is with Lucas Farnham and Dave Doty.
Farnham, which operates the Black Bear Diner and Smashburger franchises in Colorado Springs, Colo., Relocates to the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, Arizona, to focus on Mici.
Doty, who joined Mici’s board when Schiffer became CEO, is also a former Black Bear and Smashburger franchisee and was CEO of Jerry’s Restaurants, a family restaurant concept.
“Lucas is really our guy on the court,” Stanton said. “You can’t ask for a better operator, and this is the key to our franchise strategy: not to compromise in this way. He’s ambitious, he’s got a great team, and he’s just a great guy too.
Mici is a 17-year-old concept founded by siblings Jeff, Kim and Michael Micelli, offering pizza and Italian dishes based on recipes from their father Jerry’s family.
“We spent a lot of time preparing this brand to grow and we really felt somewhere right before COVID that it was ready to come out of Colorado,” Schiffer said. “It’s been a trying year and a half, but we’re planning to bring Matt [Stanton] on board so that we can really start to launch the franchise and grow that part of the business.
Stanton said the Phoenix Group already had two properties under negotiation and was “very active in the development of the site. Their goal isn’t just to dip their toe, build one [restaurant] then dip their toe again and build a second one. They are attached to the market.
He said he expected a handful of leases to be signed before the first location opened.
Stanton said another deal has been signed to open Mici franchises in a third state, but was not yet ready to announce where.
In the meantime, Mici has plans for other locations in Colorado, including their first delivery and take-out-only location, which is slated to open in Colorado Springs by the end of the year.
Schiffer said before the pandemic about 35% of the chain’s business was restaurants, but now it’s around 20%, with same-store sales continuing to grow thanks to strong off-premises business.
“Sales continue to climb very quickly for the brand,” he said. “Our year-over-year stack is now three straight years of truly positive, single-digit or teen same-store sales growth. So we’re confident that we can take 1,450 square feet of space and operate it with a more limited seating area and a greater emphasis on pickup and delivery.
He added that more and more real estate opportunities are becoming available as restaurants that have been kept afloat thanks to government help are now closing their doors.
“We see a lot of sites coming to market here in Denver. In Phoenix, we think there will be some turnover in the next few months, ”he said.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary