Longtime Springfield restaurateurs have a new venture in the works for the former Keefner’s space

Longtime Springfield restaurateurs Chris Hanken and Vic Lanzotti have a new venture in the works. The as-yet-unnamed business will be located in the former Keefner’s space, 1941 W. Iles Ave.

“We’re hoping to be so much more than a restaurant,” said Hanken. “We’re going to have a small dining area, but it won’t function as a traditional restaurant with a greeter and server.”

Hanken said the current staffing shortages, particularly in the food-service industry, caused them to focus on a concept that would have “a low margin of labor. We’re trying to do it with as few people as possible.”

Hanken and Lanzotti have been involved in a variety of Springfield-area restaurants over the last two decades, including Sebastian’s Hideout downtown and Lake Pointe Grill on Toronto Road. They currently operate Pie’s the Limit, 1710 S. MacArthur Blvd., and Public House 29 in Rochester.

Hanken noted that he and Lanzotti are modifying their new venture to adapt to the current climate. “It’s not the proper time to do high-end cuisine; staffing is crazy, people have changed their trends. More people seem to want to have food delivered; they want convenience. The experience isn’t as important as it was years ago,” he said. “In this business environment, fine dining like Sebastian’s is not the smart way to go.”

While the new restaurant will focus heavily on pizza, Hanken said it will be very different from their other pizza restaurant. “Pie’s the Limit was designed around fast-casual service,” he said, describing the new concept as “more artisan. Our anchor will be a very high-quality pizza that’s going to showcase a few different regional styles.”

Although customers will have the option to dine-in, much of the focus will be on to-go orders and retail items that can be purchased for consumption at home.

“We’ll have a very small menu with a small seating area,” said Lanzotti. “The retail area will include everything that we cook with and use on our menu; someone could take it home and build it however they want – we’ll slice the meats and cheese for you.”

Hanken described it as a “deli of sorts” that will offer imported goods and higher-end items not available in traditional grocery stores, along with “meal-replacement items that people can take home and have a good, quick, homemade meal.” He said they plan to use “local ingredients, very fresh items.”

Renovation work has already begun on the former Keefner’s space, which has been vacant since August. However, Hanken said it’s too soon to announce an opening date. “We keep running into bumps in the road, supply chain issues and all the same problems everyone else is experiencing. We’re hoping for late spring.”

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