Restaurant Development & Design

JAN-FEB 2019

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5 2 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 9 MOE'S SOUTHWEST GRILL EMBRACES ITS INSPIRATION Getting the most from these groups took more than an email survey, though. Working with SRG, the chain conducted "ethnographic research," where they interviewed guests and even held focus groups at Moe's locations themselves. According to Jennifer Jones, managing partner with SRG, conducting field inter- views can yield particularly rich infor- mation. "In this case we did interviews in restaurants with consumers, so they were immersed in the environment. That enabled us to get insights about Moe's and what they really think about the experience, the food, the facility. Mining consumer insights is really important to what we are looking for. We want to know the emotional ties to the brand. What does it stand for in the hearts and minds of consumers?" The research revealed three key areas of insight, says Schroder: about Moe's brand, about the fast-casual sector in general and about the Mexican fast- casual segment in particular. The first covers all the areas where Moe's was and is hitting the mark, says Schroder. The chain has worked hard to create a vibrant, fun atmosphere in its restaurants, exemplified by the loud "Welcome to Moe's!" greeting staff give to customers when they walk in the door. The chain's research shows this greeting and the overall vibe matter to guests more than the chain had even hoped. Moe's also found it did well with families who appreciate the friendliness but also the quality and variety of the menu. The second insight, Schroder says, was that Moe's doesn't get enough credit for the freshness, variety and value it of- fers within the fast-casual space. One big example is the free chips and salsa that comes with every meal. Moe's legacy prac- tice was to simply toss these into guests' bags with their orders, making the extra effort an afterthought for many customers. The final lesson from the research was the most serious: Despite all the efforts of people who work in this space, there's just not much difference between one concept and another in the eyes of the customer. While Schroder knew this was a challenge, it came through especially clear in the research. Some consumers, he says, simply won't drive by a competitor to get to Moe's. Southwest Is Key For Moe's Southwest Grill, the solution to the challenges and opportunities revealed in its research was literally front and center. "Our middle name affords us the opportunity to [differenti- ate ourselves]. Tex-Mex is pretty broad, but Southwest is a unique aspect of that category that could set us apart. It has a fusion of a lot of different cultures: Na- tive American, Mexican and the Cowboy West. That provides an interesting pal- ette for culinary innovation and design," says Schroder. To get credit from customers for its free chips and salsa, the chain went from a staff-served to a self-serve model.

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