After more than thirty years, a pizza joint can start to look a little lived in, to say the least — and running a chain of multiple eateries makes staying modern a little more difficult. The homegrown Anthony's Pizza & Pasta chain is wrapping up a full overhaul of all 25 of its stores and will launch a new menu next month to go with the sparkling new interiors. Anthony's CEO John Lebel says the effort will help keep the chain competitive while giving customers more of what they want.
"We took a look at what was happening in the market," says Lebel, who opened an Anthony's franchise on Colorado Boulevard in 1999 and has been running the company for the last 13 years. "There has been a giant shift in the pizza business, especially out west. Overall, the market has changed in Colorado."
Lebel adds that vintage East Coast pizza parlors can use age and wear as charming selling points, but that in Denver restaurants have to keep up with the times. "We are competitive, not just with other pizza places, but with the Chipotles and Paneras," he notes.
Lebel's original Colorado Boulevard store recently celebrated its grand reopening, unveiling a sleek and stylish interior that the company feels still has a "welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere." That location, along with several others in the chain, also features a full bar — something new for Anthony's.
As for the menu, Lebel assures that the pizza won't change. "The pizza has remained the same and will remain the same," he states. "Pizza the way we do it is not an easy task — making everything at each store every day."
Instead, a few items that no longer sell well, like the company's lasagna, will disappear, while the salad menu will be modernized to reflect changing customer tastes. "Salads have changed so much over the past few years," Lebel adds. "Our salads will reflect what people serve in restaurants today."
Despite the changes, Lebel says that the rebranding is about going back to the company's New York roots under founder Henry Mann, who opened the first Anthony's in 1984. Although the logos and interiors have changed, Lebel says "We're true to our New York roots, but we have a Colorado twist — people want to know what they're eating."
He points out that sourcing all-natural ingredients has become more difficult as rising food costs force suppliers to turn to artificial additives. "We had to look at every product we use and go with productions with not artificial ingredients," he says, with the pepperoni being the most significant of those changes.
Lebel's immediate plans are to usher the new menu into all Anthony's locations and make sure the company is stable before turning an eye to new possible new locations at the end of this year — which could include Utah and Fort Collins.