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New Cicis CEO sees ‘upside opportunities’

Former Dunkin executive William Mitchell takes helm at pizza buffet brand

Cicis Enterprises L.P.’s new CEO says the pizza buffet brand is well-positioned in the market, and the company will be working to reduce cost and complexity for franchisees.

The Irving, Texas-based buffet chain named William M. Mitchell as CEO in March after he had served in the interim role since January in the wake of the departure of Darin Harris, who had been CEO since July 2013.

“The brand has improved guest experience and food quality over the past few years, which today creates an even stronger platform for continued improvement and growth,” Mitchell said in answer to emailed questions.

“Cicis is clearly differentiated in the pizza space and owning our ‘Beyond’ menu positioning gives us the upside opportunities to expand our menu offerings to meet guests’ needs and cravings,” Mitchell said.

Prior to Cicis, Mitchell (left) had served as president of Dunkin’ Brands International at Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. Previously, he held leadership roles at Papa John’s International and AFC Enterprises, which owned the Popeyes brand.

Cicis was acquired by the New York-based Arlon Group in September 2016. The company, founded in 1983, has 430 restaurants in 31 states.

Mitchell spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about his new role:

What was attractive about the Cicis?

First and foremost, we have loyal guests, strong franchisees and corporate team full of passion for the brand. This is the foundation upon which everything else can be built because when people truly care about what they're doing, the sky's the limit. … I'm excited about working with our experienced franchisees and our strong, core leadership team to get it all done.

What are the greatest opportunities for the brand?

We are in a solid position in terms of food quality, brand differentiation and customer experience, which affords us to continue to build upon our core fundamentals by working with the franchisees to reduce cost and complexity.

What are the company’s strengths?

Cicis has the capital to fuel growth through both company and franchise channels. We hope to provide remodel and other growth incentives to rapidly accelerate our restaurant refreshes over the next three years. I also see opportunity to build our unit-level returns with game room enhancements, which will be a significant component for our company and franchisee restaurants. And lastly, there are plenty of new markets for existing and new franchisee development that we can’t wait to explore.

And the biggest challenges for the brand?

We are maniacally focused on unit-level economics. It all comes down to that. I want to reduce costs and complexity in our restaurants by simplifying our operations while increasing quality.

We will also continue to build our “Beyond” brand positioning with high-quality menu items while focusing on value, variety and fun. With our recent promotions, like Taste of New York and upcoming Italian Summer LTO’s, we are building excitement and bringing new flavor adventures to our entire buffet while staying true to our core mission.

What do you bring to the role?

I bring an operations mindset and deep experience in restaurant franchise systems to Cicis, and I’m looking forward to embracing our franchisee community to focus on key areas of improved operations, food quality and guest experience. Ultimately, my goal is to create a strong “Beyond” culture through strengthened franchisee relationships to maximize their success and drive overall system growth.

And what changes can operations/consumers expect?

Some changes to look for are the improvement and launch of our new "Maverick" prototype restaurant and implementing the remodel program systemwide. We'll also look at improving our online ordering experience with delivery platforms and continuing to own our "Beyond" positioning to offer more variety, value and fun.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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