When Jim Ilaria joined Uno Pizzeria and Grill in November 2018 the management team was working on a 6,500-square-foot prototype restaurant with the intention of using it to bring the brand into new markets. “And I said that’s not going to work, not where the industry is going, it’s too big,” recalled Ilaria when I sat down with him last week at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference.
Ilaria, who took over as president and CEO after Louie Psallidas stepped down, noted Uno had been closing company stores and the brand was in need of more than a refresh. “Our market research shows there’s still strong brand affinity, but we saw we had a lot of work to do,” said Ilaria, the former CEO of Potomac Family Dining Group, a large Applebee’s franchisee. Based in Boston, Uno has 100 company-owned and franchised locations in 19 states.