By Nona Tepper
Business is fine at Francesca's Fiore on Madison Street, despite the Italian chain's parent company closing a nearby Francesca's in LaGrange, Davanti Enoteca downtown, and shuttering all of its Glazed and Infused donut shops in late December.
"It was unfortunate; I think the market's just oversaturated with donut options," Jody Jay, general manager of Forest Park's Francesca's, said of Glazed and Infused, which closed on New Year's Eve after five years in business. The company notified employees the day after Christmas, just five days before they permanently closed their doors. Davanti Enoteca in Chicago's River North neighborhood also closed on New Year's Eve.
In a statement, chef Scott Harris, owner of the parent company, Francesca's Restaurant Group, said he plans to focus instead on his full-service restaurant brands, like Francesca's Fiore. I also "look forward to developing new concepts in the future," he said in a statement.
The Francesca's in LaGrange closed its doors on Christmas Eve. Jay said Forest Park was able to pick up customers who planned to usher in 2018 at the LaGrange location, which is located about 12 miles from Forest Park. She also said that some of the employees who worked at the closed restaurants have found other positions within the company.
"It's unfortunate we had to do it at the end of the year like this," Jay said. But "the rent is a lot more reasonable here, as opposed to LaGrange [which] almost doubled last year."
Along with being the smallest and reportedly most reasonably priced of the Francesca's chain rent-wise, Jay credits Francesca's central location at 7407 Madison St., family-friendly atmosphere and wood-fire oven with increasing sales. Forest Park's is the only one in the chain to offer a wood fire oven. In 2017, Jay said, Forest Park's Francesca's pulled in $1.5 million in sales, up about 4 percent year over year. In 2018, she expects sales to rise another 5 percent.
To keep up the pace, she said they have been focusing on making the atmosphere more family-friendly — celebrating events such as National Spaghetti Day on Jan. 3 — and redecorating the dining room so it's less white table cloths and more approachable.
Jay said execs are also working on redoing Francesca's lunch menu to combine pasta and sandwich dishes with salads, for a faster, smaller option.
"Right now our lunch diners are shoppers in the area who have a while to wine and dine," Jay said. "We're trying to get business people who are on a limited time frame."