More details on Fazoli’s new fast-casual concept were revealed at an event for The Shops at Canton Crossing in Baltimore earlier this week. The Italian quick serve announced that the new brand will be called Venti-Tre, and Fazoli’s CEO Carl Howard hopes the first unit will open its doors in March of next year at The Shops.

With Fazoli’s experiencing sales growth in 40 of the last 42 months, as well as two-year same-store sales growth greater than 10 percent, Howard says he realized now was the time to expand the brand into new channels. In this case, that’s the growing Italian fast-casual movement.

“We felt like it would be easy for us to take advantage of the opportunity because we already know Italian,” he says. “We just thought we would take advantage of some of those synergies and move forward with another growth vehicle in Venti-Tre.”

Last January, Howard turned to food and design specialists to help develop the concept. WD Partners, based in Columbus, Ohio, were responsible for Venti-Tre's design aspects, while San Francisco–based Culinary Edge developed the brand's innovative menu.

Howard says the Venti-Tre serving experience is vastly different than Fazoli's.

“It's very much like a Chipotle-type experience; we make the food for you as you move down the line,” he says. “The whole line and the whole back of the house is completely different. The look and feel, you just can't compare the two.”

Venti-Tre’s design and experience are not the only major differences between it and Fazoli’s. The menus are also very distinct from one another. Venti-Tre—Italian for “23,” which refers to the number of toppings available on the menu—will offer a wider variety of sauces, cheeses, and toppings than are available at Fazoli's. Howard believes the Rosemary Garlic Steak and Tomato Basil Soup, unique to Venti-Tre, will be some of the more popular menu items.

He adds that Venti-Tre is one of the first Italian fast-casual concepts in the restaurant industry, giving it an edge against potential competition. This, combined with Fazoli's recent sales growth, has encouraged interest in Venti-Tre franchise agreements.

“Fazoli's continues to do very well; especially our franchisees have really been on fire,” Howard says. “As soon as we find the right locations, we're going to sign up the leases and start building them. I would say by this time next year we should have four to five locations.”

By Marlee Murphy

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Fast Casual, Growth, Menu Innovations, News, Fazoli's