BOSTON - During the past two years, Uno Chicago Grill achieved an improbable goal: Expanding its menu to include more nonpizza items and boosting overall sales without slicing into the popularity of its signature deep-dish pies.
During the past two years, Uno Chicago Grill achieved an improbable goal: Expanding its menu to include more nonpizza items and boosting overall sales without slicing into the popularity of its signature deep-dish pies.
Pizza sales comprise nearly 20 percent of Uno’s revenues, and have remained steady since the chain last revamped its menu in 2005.
‘‘As we bulked up other categories and really introduced some exciting things, I might have thought (pizza) would have suffered a little bit,’’ CEO Frank Guidara said, ‘‘but it keeps coming back.’’
Next month, Uno’s will take further steps to diversify its fare when it introduces 12 new items, including a ‘‘snack hour’’ menu with appetizers priced as low as $1.99 from 4 and 7 p.m. and after 10 p.m.
It’s part of ‘‘The Lounging of Uno’s,’’ the West Roxbury company’s internal phrase for attempts to boost pub sales by introducing low-priced appetizers, specialty cocktails and an expanded wine list.
‘‘We think that in the future, the lounge is really its own separate place,’’ said Richard Hendrie, Uno’s senior vice president of marketing. ‘‘It’s an entity. I’m not sure casual dining (competitors) treat it that way. We are.’’
Pub sales comprise about 18 percent of Uno’s revenues, compared with the casual dining industry standard of 14 percent, Hendrie said.
At Uno’s newer restaurants such as one in Attleboro and another that opens next month in Swampscott, pub sections contain lounge-style seating for a more laid-back atmosphere.
A new menu, which will be introduced Oct. 22 in all 216 Uno restaurants, also includes an all-you-can-eat soup or salad lunch special for $5.49.
The new menu also banishes trans fats from the last two items that still contained them: shrimp scampi and a chocolate dessert.
Since it first revamped its menu in the fall of 2005 to include more nonpizza items, Uno’s has recorded seven straight quarters of same-store sales growth. According to Chicago restaurant consultant Technomic, Uno’s recorded sales of $460.3 million in 2006, a 2.6 percent increase. That ranked Uno’s 68th among all casual dining chains in U.S. sales.
Pizzerias rang up $28.5 billion in sales during 2006, according to Technomic. Pizza Hut led the sector with sales of $5.2 billion, but the chain’s sales have remained largely stagnant over the last five years.
Founded in 1943 in Chicago, Uno Chicago Grill has been growing through franchising, with development agreements in place for 90 additional restaurants over the next three to five years. The majority of Uno’s restaurants are corporate-owned.
Some of the company’s most successful restaurants are in territories where Uno’s is a newcomer to the casual dining scene, such as Modesto, Calif. Executives say the restaurants’ distinctive architecture helps attract first-time customers.
‘‘We have a history,’’ Hendrie said. ‘‘We come from someplace. We’re not a made-up concept from some marketing guy.’’
Steve Adams of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.