For Italian Casual Chains, Authenticity is Everything

Feb 19, 2020 151

Former Carrabba’s Italian Grill president Michael Kappit put it simply. If there’s one thing the Italian casual-dining industry understands, it’s competition. But unlike many of its segment peers, like Applebee’s, Red Robin, Chili’s, and so forth, Italian concepts are surrounded not so much by each other, but by independents. Kappitt said for every multi-unit Italian brand in the country, there are four local venues.

Also unique to the segment, there really isn’t much fast-food intrusion to speak of. Outside of Fazoli’s, pizza chains, and some upstart fast casuals, Italian is not a sector with deep counter-service roots. So, where does that leave category stalwarts like Carrabba’s, Maggiano’s, and Olive Garden? They’re chasing an ideal that isn’t all that easy to reach. 

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