Berwyn-based Italian beef institution Buona announced on Tuesday that it will open restaurants outside of the Chicago area and northwest Indiana. under a new franchise program.
The family-owned company plans to open 100 franchise stores over the next five years in Florida, Texas, Colorado, Tennessee, Arizona and elsewhere in the Midwest, according to a press release.
“Our family has been in business since 1981. And we’ve worked very, very hard as a family and in our extended family to create a playbook that’s truly built for growth,” said Joe Buonavolanto III, vice president of the society. franchising operations.
The first Buona opened in Berwyn in 1981; the company now has 25 locations in the Chicago area and northwest Indiana and a Denver kiosk with a limited menu. On Tuesday, the company said it also plans to open three company-owned stores each year for the next five years, including locations in northwest Indiana, southern Wisconsin and potentially the southern Illinois.
Expansion states were chosen because they are either high growth markets or have many Chicago transplants, although the company is not limited to these areas. Buona is already in talks with operators who want to open restaurants in Florida, Texas and Arizona, Buonavolanto said.
“The interest we’ve received so far is from experienced multi-unit operators who want to build an entire territory,” Buonavolanto said.
Buona franchisees will have the option of adding an Original Rainbow Cone ice cream kiosk to their restaurant, the company said. The company first partnered with ice cream stalwart Beverly in 2018 and opened its first dual-concept restaurant in Darien last summer.
Dual-concept restaurants have since launched in Skokie, Lakemoor and Mount Prospect, with locations in Valparaiso and Lincolnshire due to open over the next year.
The partnership with the nearly century-old ice cream maker has been successful so far, Buonavolanto said.
“We’ve even seen about a 30% increase in dinner sales at places that have a Rainbow Cone,” he said.
Buona’s expansion comes at a time when demand for Italian beef is skyrocketing outside the Chicago area in the wake of “The Bear,” the FX hit set amid Italian beef store drama River North family owned.
But Buonavolanto says the TV show wasn’t the catalyst for Buona’s expansion out of Chicago: The company built a franchise team about a year ago, he said.
Portillo’s, based in Oak Brook, known for its hot dogs and Italian beef, is also expanding outside the Chicago area — in some of the same states where Buona plans an entry.
Portillo’s opened a restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida during the second quarter and plans to open additional restaurants in Florida, Texas and Arizona by the end of the year, CEO Michael Osanloo said. during an earnings conference call in August.