Despite the success of Mr. Romano's earlier restaurant creations-including Fuddrucker's, Cozymel's and Romano's Macaroni Grill-the 56-year-old restaurateur recognized a large void in the market that made him restless: the absence of restaurant-quality takeout food. And as the food industry views home meal replacement as a major growth area, Eatzi's is regarded as one of the pacesetters in this segment, despite having only one facility open.
"I was continually plagued by people who came into my restaurants and wanted to take food out," Mr. Romano says.
To answer the call for top-notch takeout, Mr. Romano joined with restaurant operator Brinker International to create Eatzi's, an indoor market in Dallas overflowing with colorful, freshly prepared foods.
Eatzi's employs 35 chefs who whip up hundreds of entrees each day, from grilled salmon to wood-roasted chicken. Dozens of varieties of fresh-baked bread also grace the shelves, along with flowers, wine and fresh produce. Eatzi's prepares from scratch about 90% of the items for sale, Mr. Romano says.
But Eatzi's doesn't want to be seen as a gourmet store. Brinker claims the average Eatzi's meal costs $4 to $10. The average check is $15, putting Eatzi's somewhere between Boston Market and a gourmet food store.
In its first year, Eatzi's rang up $12 million in sales, putting it in the top 1% of sales of all U.S. single-location restaurants. Making these results even more impressive is that the outlet used almost zero advertising.
Competitors will be interested to know Eatzi's plans slow but steady expansion, beginning with a new store in Houston this fall and possibly another in Macy's flagship Manhattan store. The company is eyeing Washington, Chicago and San Francisco for further expansion next year.