Uno Chicago Grill

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Pizzeria Uno Corporation
Type Private
Industry Restaurants
Founded Chicago, Illinois, U.S. 1943 (1943)
Founder(s) Ike Sewell
Headquarters Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Parent Uno Restaurant Holdings Corporation
Website unos.com
Uno Restaurant, Revere, Massachusetts - night view

Uno Chicago Grill (formerly Pizzeria Uno), or more informally as Unos, is the title for a franchised pizzeria restaurant chain under the parent company Uno Restaurant Holdings Corporation. Ike Sewell opened the first Pizzeria Uno in 1943.

History[edit]

Founding and original locations[edit]

Pizzeria Uno and Due one block apart.

The first Uno's was established in 1943 by former University of Texas football star Ike Sewell and his friend, former World War II G.I. Ric Riccardo, in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois.[1] Sewell originally intended to open a Mexican restaurant because "there wasn't a really decent Mexican restaurant in Chicago then."[2]

While Sewell and Riccardo are known as the owners of the original restaurant, a 1956 article from the Chicago Daily News asserts that the original deep-dish pizza recipe was created by chef Rudy Malnati Sr., the father of Lou Malnati. Pizzeria Uno claims to have originated the deep dish pizza.

Sewell opened two additional restaurants in response to Pizzeria Uno's popularity. Pizzeria Due opened one block north of the original Pizzeria Uno location in 1955. (Uno is Italian for one, due for two.) This was followed by the launch of Su Casa, an upscale Mexican restaurant, in 1965. Su Casa is located adjacent to Pizzeria Due.[3]

Franchising[edit]

The interior of the Pizzeria Uno in Harmon Meadow Plaza in Secaucus, New Jersey.

Ike Sewell first franchised the name and concept of the restaurant to the Uno Restaurant Holdings Corporation in 1979. Beginning with four restaurants in Massachusetts, the chain rapidly expanded over the next decade. After Ike Sewell's death in 1990, his widow Florence sold the original properties (Uno, Due, and Su Casa) to the Boston-based corporation. CEO Aaron Spencer promised not to tamper with pizza at the original locations.[4] Ironically, the restaurant chain does not have a major presence in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, with only two locations in the region excluding the original Uno, Due, and Su Casa restaurants in River North. As of 2011, Massachusetts, with 29, had the most Uno restaurants.

The company began franchising in 1980.[5] As of 2014 the company has 140 Uno Pizzeria & Grill restaurants located in 24 U.S. states. Some regions have been more favorable to Uno than others. The East Coast/Midwest region continues to see growth. However, despite an aggressive push into the Southern and Western markets in the 1990s, those gains were greatly reduced as many locations closed. Franchises are also located in Puerto Rico, Honduras, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan.

Entrepreneur magazine ranked it 174th in 2003 and 252nd in 2006 in the magazine's list of the top 500 franchises. In November 2009, the company announced that after a successful pilot of Uno Express, which offers fast food, it will open at least 160 new Uno Express locations throughout 2010 into 2011.[6]

In addition to the traditional Uno restaurants, Uno offers a limited menu (mostly its pizzas) at stadiums, service plazas, and airports. Uno-branded pizzas, both thin-crust and deep-dish, are available in both fresh and frozen forms in many US supermarkets.

Format changes[edit]

Chicago-style deep dish pizza from the original Pizzeria Uno location.

Starting in 1994,[7] Uno's broadened its menu to encompass other dishes. Uno's kitchens were updated, adding sauté stations, grills, and fryers, and the company invested heavily in training.[1][7]

In 1996, the franchise's beverage list was expanded, and by 1999 so was the portion size, reflecting a trend seen in the industry where customers are buying fewer but larger drinks.[7] New locations were larger and featured a "Chicago warehouse" look.[1][7]

In 1997, Pizzeria Uno changed its name to Pizzeria Uno, Chicago Bar & Grill; it later simplified the name to Uno Chicago Grill.

The menu, updated again in 2005, still includes several of the restaurant's traditional specialties, particularly its deep dish pizza.[1] In the tradition of Chicago's speakeasies, more attention is paid to the bar. Uno's drink list features a dozen wines and a number of specialty drinks, including frozen, mixed and nonalcoholic options.[1]

The expanded menu and format changes were not made at the company's original Chicago locations (Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due).[8]

Bankruptcy[edit]

Uno Restaurant Holdings Corp. closed 16 of its restaurants and filed for Chapter 11 protection on January 20, 2010.[9] The company's initial stated intention at the time of the bankruptcy filing was to convert $142 million of Senior Secured Notes due 2011 into the new equity of the company after emergence from Chapter 11.[10] It emerged from bankruptcy on July 26, 2010 after restructuring to eliminate $14.2 million in annual interest payments and reduce total debt from $176.3 million to $40 million.[11]

Thinzettas controversy[edit]

A complaint filed in April 1997 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleged "unfair or deceptive acts or practices, and the making of false advertisements".[12] The complaint quoted examples in which Uno's Thinzettas were characterized as being low in fat. The FTC's complaint stated:

In most cases respondents' Thinzettas thin crust pizzas are not low in fat. Six out of nine types of Thinzettas thin crust pizzas contained from 14 to 36 grams of fat per serving at the time of dissemination of the advertisements.[12]

The complaint was resolved by a consent order,[13] which required them to cease this practice, and for 20 years maintain records about their advertisements and "materials relied upon" for the claims in their ads. The company must also keep "tests, reports, studies, surveys, demonstrations, or other evidence" that "contradict, qualify, or call into question" the representations made in their ads.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Official website's history and timeline
  2. ^ Paul Galloway (1986-01-08). "A Half-baked Story on How Deep-Dish Pizza was Created in Chicago". Chicago Tribune. p. 3. 
  3. ^ Uno Restaurant Holdings Corporation
  4. ^ Phil Vettel, restaurant critic (1993-04-16). "At 50, Uno dishes a deep slice of Chicago history". Chicago Tribune. p. 48. 
  5. ^ Franchise Zone description from the Entrepreneur magazine website.
  6. ^ "Uno is bullish on new Uno Express format". Boston.com. November 10, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c d Bigger is Better at Pizzeria Uno a May 2000 article from Cheers magazine
  8. ^ Pizzeria Uno Goes Schizophrenic a December 2005 post to the Chicagoist blog
  9. ^ U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, case no. 10-10209.
  10. ^ Uno files bankruptcy
  11. ^ "Uno Chicago Grill parent co. emerges from bankruptcy". The Boston Globe. July 26, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Docket No. C-3730, from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website

External links[edit]