In the second full year under The Cheesecake Factory ownership, Sam Fox’s casual-dining restaurant concept North Italia thrived. The small brand grew by 20% in 2021, according to the NRN Top 500, and entered new markets like Atlanta, San Diego and Miami. North Italia’s sales growth also skyrocketed from $113.3 million in 2020 to $158.6 million in 2021, and the brand attributes that success to the company’s physical and digital growth as North Italia gains brand recognition in more markets nationwide.
In 2021, as the country began to adjust to a post-pandemic future and more customers began heading back to restaurants, North Italia had to balance growing in-person sales with sustained digital sales — a trend that has been observed throughout The Cheesecake Factory portfolio as casual-dining brands began adjusting to changing consumer preferences.
“We were fortunate that demand for our brand was strong in 2021 and so it was not a matter of driving people into the restaurants; it was more a challenge of handling the traffic when they came,” president David Gordon said.
North Italia’s digital partnerships with Olo and DoorDash helped the company to navigate off-premises demand and surging digital sales beyond 2020.
“From a tech standpoint, we are working with our partners DoorDash and Olo to make sure we were maximizing the off-premises guest experience,” Gordon said. “This includes piloting features, analyzing data and ensuring each restaurant is maximizing their sales and dayparts through these channels. We also have a good relationship with OpenTable to better understand the business and guests who join us through a reservation.”
Moving forward, even though North Italia does not want to rush national growth, the now-30-unit brand hopes to build its store base in both new and established markets.
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