EatZi's Heats Up

High-end carryout chain ready for expansion

Published in CSP Daily News

DALLAS -- Growth has been slow for the eatZi's Market & Bakery chain of high-end carryout restaurants. After nearly 10 years in business, there are only six of the restaurants designed for on-the-go consumers in five major markets.

But with the opening of a site in Chicago on September 15, it would appear the chain, developed and owned by restaurant impresario Phil Romano, is ready to spread its wings at a little faster pace. They are looking to build out probably three or four more times [the current number of restaurants] in the next three or four [image-nocss] years nationwide, spokesperson Tanya Fritz told CSP Daily News.

The Chicago restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood is a sprawling, 15,000-sq.-ft. site with seating for 110 customers and an extensive offer of made-from-scratch salads, entrees, sides, breads, desserts, pastries and cheeses. Our goal is to provide patrons with a fresh, high-quality alternative to traditional takeout options, said Romano, who is co-CEO of the Dallas-based chain along with convenience store veteran Rick Claes, former CEO of Thornton Oil.

The idea behind eatZi's is that it's a restaurant kitchen, but it's for people who like to take it home. It's for people who don't necessarily like to cook, [but like to eat well at home], said Fritz. You can either go there and get something that's raw but has been seasoned in a nice way or marinated, which you may not want to do yourself. Then you can take it home and cook it. Or you can choose something there, have them cook it for you and then take it home. Or you can pick something up there that has already been prepared to take home or eat it there.

According to Hoovers, the initial restaurant sitesnow open in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and the Washington, D.C. areaare hub-and-spoke locations [that] will act as a production center for smaller satellites.

The average dinner entr ae at the Chicago site costs between $12 and $25, and the restaurant is open 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. The site employs more than 40 chefs. Some of the daily offerings include Peking Style Chicken, Lavender-Honey Roasted Turkey Breast, Churrasco Sirloin with Chimichurri Sauce, Thai Chile-Lime Marinated Shrimp Skewers, Marinated NY Strip Steaks, Baked Macaroni & Cheese, assorted Foccacia and Signature Skillet Cornbread. The site also can accommodate catering for gatherings of up to 500 people.

Claes, who credits former Thornton Oil leader Jim Thornton as being an inspiration in his career, said of eatZi's, I know that eatZi's can and will be a world-class brand, and I look forward to accomplishing that goal.