"Bertucci’s was a brick oven juggernaut, but its fire has dimmed with bankruptcy filing" by Janelle Nanos Globe Staff April 18, 2018
In the pantheon of pizza parlor chains, Bertucci’s always strove to be a bit better than the rest, with its brick-oven bona fides, rustic dinner rolls, and signature olives in the center of its pies. Yet, in an era of “pizza disruption," that’s no longer enough.
The Northborough-based pizza chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday, citing seven years of sliding sales and revenue. In the filing, chief finance officer Brian Connell pointed to the rising popularity of quick-casual eateries and the oversaturation of the restaurant industry as key factors in Bertucci’s decline.
“Consumers have more options than ever for spending discretionary income, and their preferences continue to shift towards cheaper, faster alternatives,” he wrote. The company plans to sell the business to a private equity firm for about $20 million, and downsize to 59 stores. At its height in the 1990s, the chain operated more than 100 restaurants across the Northeast.
The problems Bertucci’s faces aren’t unique to the pizza business. As consumers are increasingly diverting their dollars to newer, faster, more innovative business models, longstanding brands are suffering from what might best be called the curse of the familiar. The retail landscape is littered with the carnage of dozens of family-style restaurants, established chain stores, and other consumer icons that have filed bankruptcy claims in recent months.
Four bites and I've already lost my appetite.
The consumer mind-set of the moment is antithetical to the basic business premise behind chain stores or restaurants, which operate on a model of “replicate and repeat and build efficiencies,” said Ed Doyle, the president of the Cambridge-based RealFood restaurant consultancy. Today’s shopper is looking for experience and value with a “high level of cool,” he said. “When was the last time that your Instagram feed had someone posting from Bertucci’s?”
There was an era, of course, where Bertucci’s was both cool and inspired, but today?
“It’s a good name, Bertucci’s, and I actually like their pizza,” said Dave Downing, the managing director of leasing strategy for the Graffito SP real estate firm, which works with area restaurants. “I like it but I don’t know the last time I’ve had it.”
Why do you think they are bankrupt?
And therein lies the problem, he said. Boston has seen a recent tide of “disruptive” fast casual pizza chains such as Oath, Otto, Crush, Blaze, and the forthcoming &Pizza enter the market, each of which offer gourmet slices in just minutes and at a fraction of the time of a Bertucci’s meal. At the same time, Downing said, more traditional full service pizza chains have also upped their game.
Casual dining restaurants on the whole have seen a steady decline in sales over the last decade, as quick-service concepts have eaten away at their margins and now account for 81 percent of all meals, said Bonnie Riggs, a food industry analyst with the NPD Group.
“For millennials, especially millennial working moms and families, it’s all about convenience,” she said. “Millennials don’t want to take the time for a long sit-down meal.”
And real estate developers are increasingly playing to those demands, and are looking to replace longstanding tenants that once held 20-year leases with shiny new concepts.
“Every developer that we’re working with who used to look for national credit or a big bankroll, wants a unique, cool, inspired concept,” Doyle said. “They realize that to keep retail alive the food and beverage [segment] is really carrying a lot of that burden.”
Who cares if the pizza tastes like sh*t?
Bertucci’s has attempted to stoke the public’s interest in the months leading up to the bankruptcy announcement, and recently introduced food and wine pairings, specialty menus with risotto and artisanal cheese boards, and express 15-minute lunches.
A mobile app was rolled out last September.
On Wednesday, the Bertucci’s on Main Street in Cambridge — the oldest location currently in operation — was doing a brisk lunch business, with several tables of customers having lunch meetings, and two school groups dining at long shared tables. The decor, with its mix of Tuscan gold, ochre, and browns, felt a bit dated, but no one seemed to mind.
The manager on site, who asked not to be named because she wasn’t authorized to talk to the press, said she’d been fielding questions from her regulars, and has been working to reassure them that the chain wasn’t going anywhere.
“People like to try the shiny and new,” she said. “But after a while, everyone comes back to home.”
Does Amazon deliver for you?
Nothing like ordering a pizza and watching some TV as Amazon expands its dominance globally.
Oddly, I'm having trouble calling it in.
"Newton pizza restaurant crash driver faces two years behind bars, judge rules" by Maria Cramer and John R. Ellement Globe Staff December 01, 2017
The driver of a car that crashed into a Newton pizzeria and killed two people faces up to two years in prison if he pleads guilty to motor vehicle homicide charges, a judge ruled Friday.
Bradford Casler, 56, slammed his Volkswagen Tiguan into Sweet Tomatoes Pizza on March 1, 2016, killing a young father and a 57-year-old office manager known for being active in her church. Seven other people were injured.
Casler, who has multiple sclerosis, has said through his lawyer that he is willing to plead guilty to avoid putting the victims and their families through a trial, provided he does not have to serve time in jail.
On the day of the crash, one eyewitness told police she saw Casler’s SUV weaving through traffic at speeds as high as 70 miles per hour on 25- to 30-mile-per-hour streets, according to court documents.
He was driving about 50 miles an hour when he slammed into the side of the restaurant, causing a 2-ton oven to move nearly 4 feet.
Casler’s lawyer, Thomas J. Giblin III, who had recommended his client be sentenced to six months of home confinement and a lifetime revocation of his driver’s license, could not be reached for comment. He has said that Casler would choose to go to trial if the judge decided to give him a “significant” sentence.
Casler has until Dec. 18 to decide whether to plead guilty at his next hearing on Dec. 22.....
I'm told “some measure of punishment was required.”
You know what the solution is, right?
Can't imagine what is taking so long.
Now colder than the paper even.