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Chicago Restaurant Group Spent $55K on a Pizza Ordering App

Roots Handmade Pizza will utilize its new app at its Old Town location that opens Wednesday

The exterior of Roots Pizza.
Roots Pizza Old Town opens this afternoon.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Chicago restaurant owners are searching for ways to distinguish themselves in a fiercely competitive market, and Fifty/50 Restaurant Group felt one way it could do that was through building a new app. Fifty/50 opens its third Roots Handmade Pizza today in Old Town and the interiors have been renovated (a 2015 fire caused extensive damage). But customers shouldn’t overlook the new Roots smartphone app as Fifty/50 spent $55,000 on its development.

Fifty/50 co-founder Scott Weiner is fed up with how third-party food ordering platforms like Grubhub, DoorDash, etc. hike costs while engaging in unethical business practices. Some companies cybersquat as means to force restaurants into using their delivery services. Fifty/50 co-founder Greg Mohr said they felt they didn’t have much of a choice if they wanted to ensure the best customer service. They didn’t trust the third parties.

“It comes down to that we had very few options,” Mohr said. “The guest experience is the No. 1 priority.”

The app will allow customers to pay using Apple Pay or credit card without waiting for a check. Eventually, Roots will roll out curbside pickup so customers could pay in their cars as runners bring their food out. The fees will also be less than ordering with a third party. The company is trying to build its customer base by offering a $10 coupon for folks who download the app, join the company’s loyalty club, and place an order by October 21. The app is available on iOS and Android.

A cocktail using canned White Claw.
“I Fought the Claw (And the Claw Won)” at Roots Pizza.
Roots Handmade Pizza/Sarah Zelman

The first Roots debuted in 2012 in West Town, bringing Quad Cities-style pizzas to Chicagoans. Deep dish is cut into triangles and tavern-style into squares and wedges. Quad Cities pizza, with has chewy crust that’s heavy on malt, is cut into strips. A second location opened in 2017 in Lincoln Square. These are family-friendly joints with a strong craft beer list. Salads will also be featured more at the new location, including a build-your-own-option. A South Loop location, with a retractable roof, should open in May.

The formula in Old Town is similar, except Fifty/50 has brought back Christian Hetter to create cocktails for Roots. He returns from Detroit and worked with Fifty/50 at Berkshire Room in River North. He’s worked his magic using mango White Claw in a painkiller-like cocktail. It’s called “I Fought the Claw (And the Claw Won).”

Mohr said he’s heard from a lot of Old Town residents who are excited about the opening. They want something to replace Bricks Pizza, the subterranean restaurant north of North Avenue and Wells Street. Bricks closed last year after 21 years of business.

Roots opens its third location on Wednesday inside a space that’s more than 100 years old, the former home of Adobo Grill and That Steak Joynt next to Second City comedy club.

Roots Handmade Pizza, 1610 N. Wells Street, open 4 p.m. daily for first two weeks; regular hours not available.

Roots Pizza Old Town

1610 N. Wells Street, Chicago, IL Visit Website