Mici Handcrafted Italian storefront All photos by Adam Larkey

Smashburger exec takes helm at Mici Handcrafted Italian

Fast-casual Italian chain sets ambitious pace for growth

Former Smashburger executive Elliot Schiffer (left) has been named CEO and an equity partner in the four-unit Mici Handcrafted Italian chain, the company said Wednesday.

The Denver-based fast-casual chain is owned by the Miceli family offering premium pizza, pastas, salads and paninis, with dine-in, delivery and catering.

Schiffer said the company just completed a Series A round of financing with the goal of rapid expansion. A franchising program is expected to be launched within a couple years.

The chain hopes to reach 100 units within about eight years, with two to five corporate locations opening initially in Colorado over the next few years.

Schiffer said he sees Mici filling a gap for more-premium pizza that is not filled by the quicker-cooking fast-casual brands like Blaze Pizza and MOD Pizza, or by quick-service delivery brands like Dominos.

“We’re definitely not fast. We’re not a two-minute pizza,” he said. “We’re never going to have a $7.99 medium two-topping pizza deal. It’s not in our DNA.”

Instead, Mici offers individual pizzas for $9 to $12, and larger pies in the $15 to $20 range, made with high-quality ingredients, dough made in house daily and mostly imported toppings.

Unlike other fast-casual players, Mici’s pizza travels well and the chain does roughly half of sales in takeout and delivery, allowing for high volumes out of units as small as 1,600-square feet with only 25 seats.

Schiffer was previously senior vice president of non-traditional development for Denver-based Smashburger, where he developed units of the burger chain in airports, casinos and college campuses. Previously, he helped build the M Burger concept with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Richard Melman’s multiconcept restaurant group based in Chicago.

Jeff, Michael and Kim Miceli opened the first Mici Handcrafted Italian in downtown Denver in 2004, based on family recipes.

Schiffer, who holds a minority stake, said he is among about a dozen investors.

He noted that the chain also is not competing for the much-sought-after 2,200-square-foot end-cap favored by fast-casual brands, and is happy in smaller in-line locations.

“The 2,200- to 2,600-square-foot end cap is a difficult piece of real estate to find, with so many brands looking for that, especially with a drive thru. Mici doesn’t need visibility,” he said. “Mici needs access to a good neighborhood with families and young professionals. An in-line at 1,600-square feet is not a problem.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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