Cicis: Pioneering Unlimited Pizza Buffet and Beyond

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Cicis, formerly known as CiCi’s Pizza, is a renowned American buffet restaurant chain, famous for its innovative approach in the fast-food industry. Based in Irving, Texas, Cicis has revolutionized the pizza buffet concept and expanded its presence across the United States. This article delves into the rich history of Cicis, exploring its journey from a single outlet to a major franchise, its strategic rebranding efforts, and its expansion into a diverse food offering.

Early Beginnings and Rapid Expansion

Founded in 1985 in Plano, Texas, by Mike Cole and Joe Croce, Cicis started as a small pizza buffet. The brand saw rapid growth, expanding to over 363 restaurants by 2001. This period marked significant changes, including an expanded buffet selection and a redesign of restaurant interiors, enhancing the dining experience for customers.

Macaroni and Cheese Pizza

Leadership Changes and Franchise Growth

In 2003, Joe Croce retired, passing leadership to the executive team. Craig Moore, initially a general manager in Dallas, rose to become the president, guiding Cicis through critical growth phases. Under Moore’s leadership, the franchise grew to over 500 locations, making it one of the fastest-growing pizza chains in the U.S. His retirement in 2009 paved the way for Michael Shumsky, previously with La Madeleine Restaurant, Inc., to take the helm.

Visionary Expansion Plans

In 2010, Cicis announced ambitious plans to add 500 more branches within a decade, including international expansion into Canada and Mexico. This bold move signaled Cicis’ intent to be a dominant player in the global fast-food market.

Awards and Recognition

Cicis’ innovative approach has not gone unnoticed. The brand has been recognized as one of the top 25 performing brands by The Wall Street Journal and entered the top 200 franchise concepts by Franchise Today, testament to its successful business model and consumer appeal.

Strategic Rebranding

A pivotal moment in Cicis’ history was the 2015 rebranding. The company shifted from CiCi’s Pizza to Cicis, accompanied by the tagline “Beyond Pizza.” This rebranding, which included a new logo and a redesigned website, was more than cosmetic; it signified a strategic shift to diversify beyond pizza, aiming to cater to a wider array of tastes and preferences.

Business Challenges

Cicis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2021 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Because it did not offer a delivery service and was a buffet model it was unable to successfully drive revenue.  It was then sold to D&G Investors and Cicis emerged from bankruptcy shortly after the sale.  Today it has over 300 locations with over 100 in Texas. 

Conclusion

Cicis’ journey from a small pizza buffet in Texas to a nationwide franchise with ambitious global expansion plans is a testament to its innovative approach and adaptability in the dynamic fast-food industry. Its story is not just about pizza, but about how a brand can evolve and thrive by constantly reimagining itself and its offerings.

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