CiCis Pizza has had a rough couple years. But with restrictions easing up, buffet chains like this could be poised for a bounce back year. If that’s your perspective, Cicis Pizza is a long-time destination for unlimited pizza, pasta, salads, and desserts. The chain has been in business since 1986 so if you’re looking for a buffet-style pizza place to run, Cicis Pizza is a popular option.
How much does it cost to open Cicis Pizza?
You’ll need a liquid capital of $250,000 and a net worth of $500,000 to meet the financial qualifications for a franchisee. The average investment range is $688,365 to $1,008,415 and the franchise fee is $30,000.
Want to learn more about Cicis Pizza, including revenues, advantages, and challenges of running this pizza buffet? Read my unbiased company analysis to discover if this is the right franchise for you.
Financial Requirements and Fees
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|Fees / Expenses||Financial Amount|
|Total Investment||$688,365 to $1,008,415|
The fees above are what Cicis Pizza requires applicants to have when they apply to become franchise operators. Other fees also include royalty fees of 5% and ad royalty fees of 6%.
The term of agreement to run Cicis Pizza is 10 years and can be renewed. To ask for their full and updated franchise disclosure document, you may fill out this form to submit to them online.
Average Sales / Revenue per Year
In January 2021, Cicis Pizza filed for bankruptcy citing the pandemic has affected the business due to their buffet setup. Prior to the beginning of the pandemic, Cicis Pizza earned $177.3 million in revenue in 2019 and $14.2 million with an adjusted EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization). In 2020, their revenue saw declining sales of $76.3 million and negative $2.7 million with an adjusted EBITDA.
To be clear though, systemwide sales had seen declines even before the beginning of the health crisis. Without the benefit of delivery sales that you get with other franchise opportunities like Domino’s, CiCis Pizza continued to rely on on-site dining and didn’t take any significant actions to adapt to consumer behavior.
Cicis Pizza Franchise Facts
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|Industry||Full Service Restaurant|
|Subsector||Food and Beverage|
1985 saw the birth of CiCi’s Pizza, a restaurant that serves unlimited pizza in a buffet setup. It was started by Joe Croce and Mike Cole with the first branch opening in Plano, Texas. The company began franchising in 1987 and by 2001 there were already 363 stores in the United States.
In 2015, the chain went through a major rebranding. The pizza place was no longer called CiCi’s but Cicis. They also dropped the name “pizza” so as to show how Cicis offers more than just pizza. True enough, Cicis is known for unlimited salads, pasta, and dessert as well.
A decade or two ago, Cicis had many loyal patrons, including myself back in college. As a broke college kid, you couldn’t beat an all-you-cant-eat pizza lunch for $5 – $6 during the week. The company even brought in awards ranked as the second “Most Kid-Friendly Chain as voted by Millennial Moms” by Technomic. CNN Money also ranked them as the number one “Casual Dining Pizza Chain (for your money) in America”. Cicis was also featured in Franchise Times Top 400 and Nation’s Restaurant News in 2019 and 2020 as its Top 200 Restaurant Chains.
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In spite of a successful history, as mentioned above, Cicis filed for bankruptcy in January 2021. The bankruptcy filed was Chapter 11 which meant that the company was still allowed to operate while reorganizing and restructuring debt obligations. According to Jeff Hetsel, the COO and president of Cicis, the company was $83 million in bank debt which led to them filing Chapter 11.
Of course, the health crisis was only part of the reason for the company going bankrupt. According to Cicis CFO Richard Peabody, 99% of the chain’s earnings came from people who dined inside their restaurant. So when the pandemic hit, Cicis had to temporarily close 203 of its chains. They also permanently closed 61 restaurants. They laid off 39 corporate employees and had to cut executive pay by 25%. Without any real option for franchisees to generate off-site sales, the company didn’t have a way to make money.
On a more positive note, things could be turning around for Cicis. They were acquired in March 2021 by D & G Investors, turning the pizza chain’s debt to equity. The new owners claim they like the Cicis brand and believe that they can get back to where Cicis once was before the pandemic with a different capital structure and a set of new owners.
Many dub Cicis as an affordable buffet. As of this time of writing, their rates for adults are $6.99 while the rates for kids are at $5.49. With this, you might be wondering just how many pizza slices can customers eat at Cicis before the restaurant loses any money? According to this person, it’s about 13 slices. The buffet at Cicis only covers a limited portion of their menu so the best way to increase sales franchisees are encouraged to highlight takeout options, deliveries, ordering drinks in addition to the buffet, or chicken wings.
Aside from the food, some Cicis locations are known for their game rooms where customers can play arcade games like skee ball or pinball. This is one reason for the 3,000 to 4,000 square feet requirement of CiCis stores.
Franchise operators have three game room options to choose from. The demographic criteria that Cicis is looking for to put up a unit are that the residential population has to be 40,000 or more and that the area has a positive population growth in the last 5 years. The area must also have an average household size that’s 2.5 or more with an average income of $50,000 or greater. At the time of writing, all states are available for franchising.
How Much Does Cicis Pizza Make in Profit?
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As of the moment, we don’t know how much Cicis makes in profit due to the recent restructuring of the business at this time of bankruptcy. But the recent data we can get is the one we mentioned above which is $76.3 million in 2020 and a negative $2.7 million with an adjusted EBITDA. In short, based on the last financial report the company was losing money before filing bankruptcy. That’s not much of a surprise I suppose.
Hopefully the numbers will get to increase as Cicis finds a stable footing once the company has managed to finish restructuring their organization. One thing you’ll want to consider before opening is how restrictive your local and state government has been. If you plan to open in a city with stricter lockdowns, consider a pizza franchise with more of an emphasis on takeout and delivery so you can be more confident about operating the business.
Advantages of a CiCis Pizza Franchise
Cicis has its advantages when you decide to franchise this pizza chain. Here are some of them you can expect:
All You Can Eat Pizza
Cicis is known for being the inventors of all you can eat pizza. Whether or not they did start that trend, they’re undoubtedly known for making the concept popular. So if you want to introduce a pizza buffet to consumers in your town, open a Cicis. At $6.99, it’s considered affordable especially since pizza isn’t the only thing on the buffet spread. Salads, pasta, and dessert is on the buffet menu as well.
The most common pizzas you’ll find on the buffet line include the classics like pepperoni, cheese, sausage, and a veggie pizza.
What people like about Cicis aside from the pizza buffet is that if you can’t find your favorite pizza being offered or if you’d like to customize the toppings, they’ll make it for you. Such service is known at Cicis which is why people like visiting this chain to get their affordable pizza fix no matter what toppings are there favorite.
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People of all ages can enjoy themselves at Cicis. Not only do they offer food to eat but they have a game room as well. This makes it a fun place to bring your kids or hang out with friends. As a parent myself, I can attest to the appeal of a game room that keeps kids entertained. As the owner of a franchise, the game room can also be a source of additional revenue.
You’ll be in good hands once you decide to franchise with Cicis. If you’re an experienced franchise operator, you get a 5-week training program on how to run the business. Additional training is given in some conditions.
Local real estate brokers are also provided to help determine the best location for the restaurant. Architects and general contractors selected by Cicis will build out the store. Ongoing support and business counseling is also provided by the company.
Challenges of a Cicis Franchise
Running a business will always have its own challenges and here are a few to note and expect once you decide in running a Cicis restaurant.
It’s Not Unlimited
We’re not sure if Cicis have an official written rule as to how many slices of pizza can one person eat or if there’s a time limit, but there have been claims from customers that management can come up to you and tell you that you’re not allowed to have any more pizza after you’ve reached a certain number of slices. If there really is a rule, stores should be able to disclose it to their customers so they’re aware. Cicis shouldn’t call it an “All You Can Eat” either if they have limits.
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One of the annoying facts of running any sort of all you can eat concept is that you should except a small number of customers to try to take advantage of the system. An example of gaming the system would be trying to stay for lunch and dinner. Other customers may try to pack pizza into to-go containers to bring home to their family. You’ll need to be vigilant about preventing these customers from eating away at the profits.
Challenges with Health Inspections
Eating a lot of pizza is obviously not healthy but what we’re talking about is that Cicis has been under fire for not being able to pass health inspections. The report claims that Cicis were keeping their pizza sauces at low temperatures. They weren’t marking the times their pizza was made as they displayed it on the buffet table.
Whether or not these concerns were addressed, it’s best to make sure that your location complies with all health standards.
This is a unique challenge to be aware of before you get started in the pizza buffet industry. One of the challenges of operating a pizza buffet is reducing food waste while maintaining healthy and fresh food for guests. For example, a pizza can only sit out on a buffet for a couple hours before it goes bad. But if you only have a handful of customers for lunch, it’s a fine line between giving your customers enough selection while remaining profitable.
A business that recently went bankrupt is going to be tough to invest in. Though I’ve mentioned that Cicis was already purchased and that there is a restructuring going on, maybe it’s a good idea to wait for a little bit and see what Cicis future plans are before diving into franchising with them. Ask yourself if they’ve done enough to course correct and be profitable again. You don’t want to get caught in a sudden business change just as you’ve signed up with them.
Personally, I would evaluate other pizza franchises that have not just survived but thrived in the current environment. There are plenty of alternative pizza concepts that experienced a record year while CiCis was losing money.
Is the Cicis Pizza Franchise Right For You?
If you’re the type to take risks and would love to introduce a pizza buffet to your neighborhood then Cicis Pizza is the franchise for you. It’s a fun setup for people of all ages to enjoy. The prices are also affordable for families and just about anyone. The food and arcade games might just be a hit in your community and can be the next go-to pizza place in your area.
What is an alternative pizza buffet franchise?
One pizza chain you can check out that has the same buffet setup is Pizza Inn. They’ve been around for 60 years with over 151 stores in the United States. The initial franchise fee to open a Pizza Inn is $30,000. Here are some other pizza concepts I’ve reviewed that you could explore:
With this guide, you can get started in studying your options on how to open a Cicis franchise near you!