Industry News | December 12, 2012

Così Pop-Up in Chicago to Test New Menu Items

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Così Inc., the fast-casual restaurant company, announced another step in its strategic effort to enhance its brand and image. Tapping into a popular restaurant trend, Cosi redesigned its South Michigan Avenue downtown Chicago space in a matter of three days and reopened in a fun, energetic, pop-up style. The 4,000-square-foot eatery is testing newer thoughts on creative and innovative ideas for lunch and dinner, as well as preparing for next-stage developments throughout the chain. The focus is on unique, flavorful, and fresh (new and existing) ingredients emphasizing thoughtful sourcing and following through with great execution.

When it became apparent that it was time to re-imagine the Così concept, it was clear that the Così flatbread and the hearth oven would remain a focal point. Served at the original Così location on the Rue de Seine in Paris, France, the warm, hearth-baked flatbread has been at the center of the Così menu for close to 30 years. With that decision made, every other part of the Così past was up for review.  

"We want to honor the ideas that Così`s founder Drew Harré had when he opened that very first Così location," says Carin Stutz, Così`s president and CEO. "Drew was looking to introduce fresh and flavorful foods to the people of Paris in new and surprising ways, and that is how we settled on the Così pop-up idea to jumpstart our revitalization."

Cosi expanded on the pop-up idea as an opportunity to bring new flavors and exciting menu items to guests for a limited time. As solid customer feedback offers instant hits, Così will roll those menu items nationally as quickly as possible across the 129-unit chain.

“We`ve experimented with an incredible number of recipes over these last few weeks in preparation for the Così pop-up," says Michael Foley, Così`s vice president of strategic innovation, and the creative mind behind the new Così menu. "We think that our guests will tell us immediately how we did. We`re looking forward to that feedback to help us prepare even more new menu items and expand our interests in other emerging aspects of running our unique restaurants." 

The Così pop-up menu will continue to focus on sandwiches, salads, and flatbread pizzas. Regular Così guests will find new and interesting dishes designed to help them explore their flavor palettes. Just a couple of the 23 new dishes that accomplish this are the Così Pulled Chicken Mole sandwich, featuring marinated chicken, avocado, hearth-fired onions, pepitas, and a Mexican corn relish; and the Così Korean Pork BBQ entrée with pulled pork, spinach, cilantro-cabbage slaw, and ginger soy vinaigrette, served on a bed of grains.

To create a holistic experience, the Così pop-up location features design and ambience enhancements that are more in line with the Così vision of what it means to be an urban café that can easily go suburban. The loft-inspired design takes advantage of existing high ceilings while still creating intimate zones, which are perfect for different needs. Guests can choose to sit at one of two communal tables made from reclaimed wood by a local Chicago artist, at several high-top tables made of concrete, at the newly-constructed bar with its view of the open-flame hearth oven or in the Così gallery, a special area in the back of the restaurant that features art from the students of the School of the Art Institute located next door to Così.  

"We think that the restaurant not only fits in incredibly well with our South Loop Chicago neighborhood but also sets the stage for the next and now generation Così," Stutz says. "Every seat is the best seat in the house." 

The Così pop-up location will officially open on December 12 at 116 S. Michigan Avenue (across from Chicago`s iconic Art Institute).