Barilla To Open Restaurant Chain

To increase its name recognition and encourage Americans to eat more pasta, Barilla SpA, with a U.S. headquarters in Bannockburn, Ill., will open a chain of branded restaurants in American next year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal interviewed Chairman Guido Barilla at the company's headquarters in Parma, Italy. “Most Americans eat pasta, but not very often,” said Mr. Barilla, who is the great-grandson of the company’s founder and who took the reins in 2003, after several years in executive roles within the company. “There is undoubtedly potential for expansion in the U.S.”

One route for expansion has been microwaveable meals. Barilla launched them in February of this year (see www.foodprocessing.com/vendors/products/2012/barilla-single-serve-microwaveable-meals.html). The Journal reported four billion packages were sold between February and June.

The restaurant chain is expected to start with a pilot eatery that is due to open by the end of 2013. The company plans to fund the restaurant effort by selling noncore assets, including a German bread company and a Spanish maker of bakery products. Under Guido Barilla, the Italian company had acquired juice, cookie and cake companies around the world. However, the bakery business in 2011 made up 60 percent of the company's sales, while pasta, sauces and flour accounted for 37 percent.

A new CEO joins the company in October. Claudio Colzani was chief customer officer at Unilever in the U.S.

Last year, U.S. sales accounted for about $457 million of Barilla's overall revenue of $4.9 billion, mostly through grocery store sales of dry pasta.

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