MidiCi The Neapolitan Pizza Company, a California-based fast-casual chain, opened its first Tarrant County location in February in Fort Worth. The shop, at the LeftBank center on West Seventh that also features Tom Thumb, Hopdoddy Burger Bar and other food stops, came with a certain amount of fanfare.
It closed the weekend of Oct. 6-7, with a note from franchiseer Michael Crain that despite his and his wife Joanna’s best efforts, they could not generate enough sales to maintain the business.
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“[It] was a tough run,” Crain said in reply to a Star-Telegram email. “Still stings since on paper all should have been great.”
In a later phone interview, Crain said that they burned through a lot of cash early, and that the restaurant was more expensive than they’d been led to believe. And not enough people were coming in to balance things out.
“The numbers that we saw that they do in California, we never even got close to here,” Crain says. “On paper it looked great, but here it just didn’t work.”
MidiCi Fort Worth had trouble finding a groove, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Like Pizza Snob, Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza and other fast-casual places, it had a build-your-own section, but also offered nearly 20 specialty pizza. The Fort Worth store was arranged to that you came in at the end of the ingredient line and then had to make your way to the registers, where a computerized ordering system led to some confusion. Early on, customers were getting their pizzas before their appetizers and even occasionally dessert before their pizzas.
Crain soon changed the restaurant to table service, and offered specials on Mondays and Wednesday to draw customers in. He brought in local chefs for events in which they showed their own pizza skills. Although there had been complaints about service, my wife and I ate there a couple of weeks before it closed and, whatever anyone else’s experiences may have been, our server was excellent and the staff was welcoming.
But Crain acknowledges that service was a problem — as was staffing as a whole. As Fort Worth’s number of restaurants has expanded, it’s been harder for a lot of restaurateurs to hold on to staff who will go to other restaurants where they can make more money.
“We had a lot of really great shining stars,” Crain says. “But then we had a lot of other staff that seemed to move from place to place. When you talk about hourly workers, they’re moving for 25 cents [an hour more] to somewhere else.”
But there was more to it than that for MidiCi Fort Worth; one manager left midway through construction, another left citing a fatigue diagnosis before the restaurant opened, another lasted four days, another lied about the amount of experience he had.
“We just never found anybody, to be honest, that loved the place as much as we did,” Crain says. “And wanted to care for it as much as we did.”
Social-media comments about possible factors in the closing mentioned high rents, traffic and parking, the latter usually not a big problem at LeftBank, where besides Hopdoddy there are locations of 85°C Bakery Cafe, Nekter Juice Bar and liquid-nitrogen ice-cream shop Creamistry, with a location of Colorado-based breakfast chain Snooze: An AM Eatery scheduled to open before the end of October.
One of the reasons parking is typically not a problem at LeftBank is that the large lot separates Hopdoddy, easily visible from West Seventh, from most of the other food places, which aren’t easily seen from West Seventh.
“There’s traffic flowing down that street,” Crain says, “but anecdotally, we would get, ‘We didn’t know you were back there. I thought that because of the Tom Thumb being the only grocery store in a two and a half-mile radius, we would have a lot of traffic through there, but we just didn’t get that much.”
The Tom Thumb does feel a little separated from the rest of the development, not facing any of the restaurants directly. And the West Seventh area is, of course, loaded with restaurants in a stretch that a little more than 10 years ago was fairly sparse, so there are a lot of restaurants competing for business.
By coincidence, MidiCi’s Fort Worth closing came about a week before another franchisee is opening a location at Euless’ Glade Parks (which is also home to a Hopdoddy Burger Bar and multiple other restaurants — with more to come).
The Euless MidiCi, which will have its grand opening Saturday and Sunday, is at 1310 Chisholm Trail Suite 800. We’re awaiting more info, but judging from photos on its Facebook page it will, like the Fort Worth one, have a tree in the middle of the dining. room. It looks like a smaller tree, though.
Thach Le, the owner-operator of the Euless location, says that it has a dog-friendly patio as well as a nearby grassy area where children can play, making for a family-friendly restaurant. He says that he has a background in fashion design and has traveled a lot, including to Italy, and that he loves to cook Italian food.
The Euless location will open as an order-at-the counter fast-casual, but servers will bring food out to customers and handle other details. It is possible that the pizza-before-salad thing will happen early on — true Neapolitan pizza cooks quickly, and some of MidiCi’s salads have 10 to 12 ingredients and take time to make — but Le says that he will be watching to fix any problems with the ordering system.
For updates, visit https://www.mymidici.com or @MidiciEuless on Facebook. MidiCi also has locations in Dallas’ West Village, with another one coming to Preston Hollow Village as well as one coming to Addison.