Jeff Miceli is the founder and president of Mici Italian, the emerging Italian restaurant franchise based in Denver that is known for its top-quality Italian food. What started as a mission to share traditional Italian recipes and thoughtfully made dishes with the Denver community has now grown into a full-scale franchise operation, with 18 years of development experience to support the brand’s rapid growth.
Miceli spoke with 1851 on what helps Mici stand out, how the brand has streamlined its kitchen processes and what it takes to be a successful franchisee in the system. The family-friendly atmosphere has been handcrafted as much as the dishes on the Mici menu, all of which have helped guide Mici’s success.
1851 Franchise: What void do you feel Mici fills?
Jeff Miceli: We’re able to pair quick-casual service with delivery service, and we’ve got a product that doesn’t compromise quality like other brands in the sector. When customers come to Mici, they are able to get in and out quickly while still receiving the restaurant experience and getting a taste of something high-end.
1851: How were you inspired to launch Mici into a full-scale restaurant franchise?
Miceli: I grew up with all sorts of family recipes; my father is a great Italian cook, and he would cook for my family all the time. Every time we would go out to eat at an Italian restaurant, we would be disappointed because it wasn’t anywhere near the quality of the meals that we were eating at home. My brother and I started a delivery and carry-out pizza shop and felt like we could launch a quick-casual Italian service that could achieve the same level of convenience that we saw at home growing up. We found that, with our model, it was a lot easier to get customers in and out of the restaurant quickly and our projected sales were enough to get us really excited about franchising.
1851: What are your brand’s differentiators, and what has Mici been doing well right now?
Miceli: If we look back at our original plan, that’s where our differentiators really started. We set out to make the best Italian food and pizza that we possibly can, and over the past 18 years, the food has stayed the same. We’ve followed the same recipes and the same process, but over the course of the years we have been able to simplify the process. Now, we’ve made it even easier to scale our service without compromising on quality.
What separates us from other pizza concepts right now is the fact that we’re able to serve New York-style pizza very efficiently. We’re cooking our pizzas directly on a stone, the sauces are simmering for hours, and you don’t need high-end kitchen equipment or expensive employees in order to make our pizzas really fast.
1851: How has Mici separated itself from an employee perspective?
Miceli: We have a patented press for pizza dough that started as an idea we kicked around for about 15 years. The idea started because it took so long to train someone just to put the crust on pizza dough. The press has streamlined and eliminated a large portion of employee training; anyone can walk in and make a perfect crust right away. We’ve also been able to simplify our menu and service for employees just like we have for our customers, and that has made a world of a difference as we push ahead through franchising. We’re able to use hourly employees — even high school students or completely untrained individuals — and give them an opportunity to serve others and make something truly special. It was a challenging process to set this all in motion, but it has made a world of a difference as we continue to scale our business at a rapid rate.
1851: What is your vision that you want Mici to fulfill?
Miceli: We’re loosely targeting 150 total restaurants in our system; that’s our long-term goal, but we’re well aware that we need to reach those figures at the proper pace. The success of Mici is largely dependent on our franchise partners, and we don’t want to scale at a rate where we are not able to support our franchisees properly. We want this brand to be full of great people that are the right cultural fit, and that alone is more important than rapid growth. Expansion is certainly a long-term goal, but after spending 18 years fine-tuning this service, it’s a huge priority that we grow the brand with the same family-centered attitudes that have helped us get this far.
1851: What does an ideal Mici franchisee look like?
Miceli: I think the ideal franchisee is somebody that can have success running multiple units. It’s important that our brand knows how time-sensitive the schedules of our customers are, and a multi-unit owner is well aware of that priority based on the duties that come with operating more than one restaurant. We want our franchisees to know how to hire the right people too, and we’re all about having warm and engaging people in every area of our restaurants. People that understand those aspects are going to win with our brand. With our model in place, those characteristics alone can give us a lot of comfort that our owners are going to be successful.
Startup costs range from $233,405 and $597,605. For more information about franchising with Mici visit: https://www.miciitalian.com/franchising/.