Pizzeria Uno sells frozen pizza division to Romeoville-based Great Kitchens – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

Romeoville-based Great Kitchens Food Co. has acquired Uno Foods’ frozen and refrigerated pizza brands as the iconic deep dish chain focuses on expanding its franchise restaurants.

Uno Foods is the frozen food division of Uno Restaurant Holdings Corp., owner of the original Pizzeria Uno — which has been credited with inventing deep dish pizza — at Ohio Street and Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago. Uno Restaurant Holdings Corp. is owned by Texas-based investment firm Newport Global Advisors.

Pizzeria Uno CEO Erik Frederick said Wednesday the company would maintain ownership of the restaurants, which are split between 30 company-operated and 50 franchised locations across 17 states and abroad. Three of the company-owned restaurants are in Chicago, including Pizzeria Uno, Pizzeria Due and Su Casa, a Mexican restaurant that does not sell pizza.

Frederick described the company’s manufacturing business, which includes calzones, entrees and appetizers in addition to pizza, as “kind of an odd duck.”

“Operating a restaurant and franchising a restaurant have a lot of operational synergies,” he said. “But manufacturing, not so much.”

Pizzeria Uno plans to focus on expanding its restaurant presence in hotels, Frederick said.

Great Kitchens manufactures frozen pizzas in Romeoville and Chicago Heights, said Henk Hartong, CEO of Brynwood Partners, the Connecticut-based private equity firm that owns the company. Among Brynwood’s other holdings is the Chicago-based Hometown Food Co., which owns brands including Pillsbury and Funfetti.

Great Kitchens operates a 165,000-square-foot crust facility in Chicago Heights, where about 80 people work, and a 155,000-square-foot toppings facility in Romeoville, where about 720 people work including in corporate roles, Hartong said. Uno Foods manufactures its frozen brands in a facility south of Boston.

Hartong said Great Kitchens did not have plans to move manufacturing of Uno Brands to the Chicago area. The acquisition could lead to single-digit staff additions in Romeoville to support the new brands, he said.

Uno Foods’ Boston facility, unlike Great Kitchens’ Chicago-area plants, has the ability to manufacture deep dish pizza crusts, said Hartong. “As silly as that sounds, we don’t,” he said. “But we’ll now have the capability to distribute it through this business, and we’re really excited about that.”

Hartong added that Great Kitchens has already received inquiries from retail partners about bringing Uno brand pizzas to Chicago-area grocery stores. Right now, Hartong said, Uno brand products have a “very small” presence in local grocery stores, if any. “That’s a big part of why we bought the business,” he said.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Demand for frozen pizzas soared during the pandemic. That demand is still strong, Hartong said. Great Kitchens’ sales are up more than 30% over the last year, he said.

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