- Texas-based pizza chain Cicis — the 10th largest pizza chain in the U.S. by sales — has launched a new restaurant incentive program in an effort to grow its footprint from 431 locations in 31 states to nearly 500 locations by 2021, according to a company news release.
- The program offers franchisees $77,500 toward upfront costs for new store development, including $22,500 in franchise fee savings, a $50,000 equipment and inventory credit and $5,000 in matched marketing funds for grand openings.
- Cicis's newest locations include restaurants in Laredo, Texas; Panama City, Florida; D'lberville, Mississippi; Springfield, Missouri; and Denver, Colorado. It currently has opportunities for franchising in Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
During a time when many brands — from Subway and Starbucks to Papa Murphy's — are shrinking their unit counts amid oversaturation worries a few chains are bucking the trend. Cicis is one of them and the company is ripe for growth behind the new leadership of CEO Bill Mitchell and COO Toni Bianco, both appointed in 2018. Last year, after a brand revitalization, the chain experienced a 3.2% increase in sales, according to Technomic data.
As fast casual, assembly-line-inspired, top-your-own pizza concepts experience staggering growth — Blaze Pizza and MOD among them — and delivery-heavy Domino's dominates the segment overall, Cicis is a bit of an outlier with its all-you-can-eat buffet-style and game room approach. There isn't much competition in this subsegment, give or take Pizza Ranch, Mr. Gatti's and a few smaller concepts.
All three are undergoing expansion plans right now, with Mr. Gatti's aiming to hit 300 locations by 2022, but total investment and upfront costs vary by chain. The average investment for a new Cicis, according to the company, is between $686,445 and $1,033,180, based on the size of the space. Comparatively, the estimated cost for a retrofit/leased Pizza Ranch is $1.25 million to $1.55 million, while the total estimated initial investment of a Mr. Gatti's Pizza ranges from $1.6 million to $4.6 million.
The demand for Cicis and Mr. Gatti's-type concepts seems to exist. A report published by Future Market Insights estimates that family/indoor entertainment centers will grow by a compound annual growth rate of 13.3% throughout 2027.
For companies looking to grow, a franchise incentive program such as Cicis is a good place to start, particularly for a concept that tends to have a larger footprint and that requires more equipment to facilitate the buffet. Incentive programs also show that the parent company is committed to the franchisees' success in getting the business started and creates that initial goodwill — a big deal in an environment that has seen more franchisees pushing back against their parent companies.
In the pizza space, Cicis has a clear differentiator and plays the value game well. Still, Cicis is hardly the only chain shooting for material growth and it's also not the only chain offering incentives to hit those growth targets, so pizza should continue to be a wildly competitive segment.