Local Fazoli’s to host all-you-can-eat spaghetti contest

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Local Fazoli’s to host all-you-can-eat spaghetti contest

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Fazoli’s CEO Carl Howard, who has led the Italian restaurant chain since 2008, is a native of Kettering and a 1983 graduate of Fairmont East High School. MARK FISHER/STAFF

Only fast slurpers need apply.

Fazoli’s will host a spaghetti-eating contest from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 22 at its Sugarcreek Twp. restaurant at 6110 Wilmington Pike in front of the Sugarcreek Plaza.

Contestants will compete to eat the largest amount of spaghetti and marinara sauce within eight minutes. The winner will receive a $250 Visa gift card, free spaghetti at Fazoli’s for one year and a Fazoli’s T-shirt.

At the conclusion of the contest, Fazoli’s will donate 1,000 pounds of dried pasta to Feed the Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger, a Fazoli’s spokeswoman said in a release.

Fazoli’s is hosting the pasta-eating contest as a way to kick off its Endless Pasta Fest, where diners can take advantage of unlimited refills on all pasta dishes for $6.99.

The restaurant chain recently announced that it has completely removed all artificial sweeteners, flavors, preservatives and colors from its food menu. Fazoli’s officials said the fast-casual Italian chain is the first national brand under 1,000 units and the third restaurant overall — behind Panera Bread and Chipotle — to offer a completely “clean” food menu.

“We know our guests love Fazoli’s spaghetti and signature marinara sauce, so we thought a pasta eating contest would be a fun way to celebrate our Endless Pasta Fest promotion while contributing 1,000 pounds of dried pasta to Feed the Children,” Donna Josephson, chief marketing officer of Fazoli’s, said in a release.

Fazoli’s CEO Carl Howard, a native of Kettering and a 1983 graduate of what was then Fairmont East High School, came back to Dayton three weeks ago to call attention to the clean-menu initiative and to call attention to a revamped menu.

“We eliminated more than 80 artificial ingredients from 61 different menu items,” Howard said March 27 at the Fazoli’s across from the Dayton Mall in Miami Twp. “Every step along the way, we’ve improved the food.”

The overhauled menu is now in place in all Fazoli’s in the Dayton area and in the Lexington, Ky. area, where the chain is headquartered. It will be in place by the end of June in all Fazoli’s company-owned restaurants.

Founded in 1988, the chain operates 213 units across 25 states, including seven restaurants in the Dayton-Springfield area.

The chain has been on the rebound under Howard’s leadership. Fazoli’s has generated 15 straight quarters of same-store sales growth, and same-store sales increased 4.9 percent in January, according to the trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News.

Howard is a bit of an anomaly in the high-turnover restaurant industry. He has led Fazoli’s for nine years, and even survived a corporate change of ownership: in July 2015, Fazoli’s was sold by Sun Capital Partners to Sentinel Capital Partners, which also owns TGI Fridays and which just last month sold its Checkers/Rally’s Drive-In Restaurants.

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