It's hard enough to run a successful restaurant in this economy, but imagine doing it as a college student. That's exactly what is happening at Felice's, a Roman-style pizza restaurant in Rogers Park that is run entirely by undergraduate students from Loyola University. It's apparently the only student-run and managed pizzeria in the nation.
Felice's sprouted as an idea by students who studied abroad in Rome at Loyola's John Felice center. When they returned to Chicago, they brought the idea back to Loyola Limited, Loyola University’s undergraduate entrepreneurial holding company that is run and managed by undergrad students.
The group was able to then present to the senior leadership of the university and board of trustees, who allowed them to take a loan out from the university to open the storefront. The plans for Felice's began to fall into place and the restaurant officially opened in February of this year. Eater caught up with Patrick Henderson, a junior at Loyola, and the current president of Felice's, to discuss pizza and the unique challenges of managing a student-run business.
Felice's has been open for about four months now, how's it going?
We are doing really well. Feedback has been good and we are profitable.
What is Roman-style pizza?
The concept is like what you'd find in pizza shops all over Rome. Customers can pick their slice and are charged by the ounce. The pizza is thin crust in Rome. We also have soups and salads, whole pizzas.
How did you come up with the menu?
The founding team of students, there were about 10 of us did recipe development. We created our own dough, sauce and soups from scratch. We worked with the chef from the Loyola retreat center in Woodstock, Ill., for some of the initial groundwork. We also tried this style of pizza in different places around the city, and some of our staff worked at other Chicago pizzerias. It was a lot of hit and miss. We now rotate 25 different pizzas and are constantly thinking up new ideas.
Who is actually making the food?
Our employees. The operation is entirely student-run, with help from our advisor and other business leaders who provide guidance, so our talented pizza makers are students. We do everything from food prep to accounting. It's the best form of experiential learning.
Since the business is all student-run, how do you deal with the business when school related stuff comes up? I know we pushed back our interview because of finals...
We are students first and that will always be the most important thing. We usually are able to make do, changed around shifts when we had to. We did close one day to let everyone have a day to study. Many of our employees are freshman and sophomores so this summer we will likely have less staff, cut down on some of our hours. We also see a great amount of turnover with students as they are only here for four years. I am the second president of Felice's. With that comes opportunity to move up quickly.
What do you see for the future of Felice's? Other Locations? Franchising?
We are so new we want to just keep focusing on what we are doing. We want to solidify what's happening. There are lots of possibilities moving forward and we will start to focus on them this summer when business is a little slower.