COLUMBUS (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — Hollywood Casino Columbus is betting on Mikey’s Late Night Slice.
Owners Penn National Gaming will start serving pizza and drinks under the Columbus restaurant and bar operator’s name starting in May. What was the casino’s IO Bar is now being converted into a full-service Mikey’s Late Night Slice.
“The casino wanted more local flavor and exciting concepts. For some reason they called us,” co-owner Mikey Sorboro joked.
The casino said it was looking at a fun and established brand to bring inside its walls.
“As we looked to add amenities that speak to our increasingly younger demographic, this really seemed liked a no-brainer,” Jason Birney, vice president and general manager, said in an email. “The team at Mikey’s are so creative and highly collaborative, which thrills us even more about the partnership.”
It was a no brainer from the Mikey’s braintrust, too.
The arrangement is essentially a licensing agreement. The casino will operate the space, but the branding, recipes and training is all from Mikey’s. In exchange, Mikey’s gets an annual fee plus a percentage of sales.
“This was the type of growth that we could handle during the pandemic,” Sorboro said. “We weren’t comfortable taking on a lot of risk, but there wasn’t much of a downside to this for us.”
It’s a west side outpost for the Mikey’s brand, which does have a Cincinnati location.
Being in a casino felt on brand for the business as well, he added. The pizza joint often proudly proclaims its pizza is best enjoyed along with a few alcoholic beverages.
The presence will be hard to miss. It’s installing a 6-foot-tall, rotating model of its Pizzaface mascot at the bar.
There could be upside beyond Columbus, too. If it works, it could open up additional business for Mikey’s either with Penn National or between Mikey’s and other licensed restaurant operator scenarios such as airports or rest stops.
“We hope we’re able to do more,” Sorboro said. “(Penn National) has 40 properties. They’re in places like Dayton and Detroit.”
He also pointed to Penn National’s ownership of popular sports and pop culture blog Barstool Sports. A Barstool sports book opened in Penn National’s Detroit casino and Sorboro said Mikey’s could be a nice accompaniment to spaces like that.
“Gambling and drinking. That’s on brand for us,” he said.
Barstool does a regular series of pizza reviews, for what it’s worth.
Birney said they were looking for opportunities both to add amenities for loyal guests and to bring in new foot traffic, including those who might otherwise not look toward the casino as a destination.
“The best partners are the ones who understand the advantage of our built-in 8,000-plus visitors a day during non-Covid times,” he said. “We do hope to solidify more local relationships like this in the future and hopefully those partners are as great to work with as Mikey’s Late Night Slice.”
It’s not the only new development for the restaurant company, which has seen success in the last few months with the creation of multiple new “virtual” brands including a vegan pizza and other innovative additions.
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