More dough, new CEO for Giordano’s

“To lovers of all things traditional in the Windy City, this piece of news may sound like blasphemy. Giordano’s Enterprises Inc., king of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, has big plans to revamp its menu by overhauling nontraditional items like its thin-crust pies and salads and—gasp!—more health-conscious fare. It also has its eye on markets outside of Chicago, like college towns such as Madison, Wis., and doubling outlets to about 86 over the next three years.”

“Don’t worry. It’s not abandoning the gut-busting “stuffed” pizza that made Giordano’s a Chicago tourist destination. But its new owners, who plucked the famous restaurant chain’s assets out of bankruptcy in November, see opportunity by stoking demand with lighter menu items and redesigned restaurants. Victory Park Capital Advisors LLC, the Chicago private-equity firm that bought the chain’s assets for $52 million, expects to plow as much as $20 million more into the enterprise. It hired Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc. veteran Yorgo Koutsogiorgas, 57, this month as CEO to lead the charge, targeting Michigan and Wisconsin for expansion. The new team faces stiff competition in a $34 billion U.S. pizza-restaurant industry swarming with large and small rivals constantly cutting prices, especially amid the economic downturn, and offering new products to attract more pie lovers. ‘They need to make their menu relevant again,’ says Eric Giandelone, director of food-service research at Mintel Group Ltd. in Chicago. ‘Even pre-bankruptcy, you could just eyeball that traffic at Giordano’s wasn’t great.”’