Restaurant Development & Design

WINTER 2014

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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W I N T E R 2 0 1 4 • 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 • 4 9 because to convert just one or two stores isn't going to help the system or provide the brand refresh impact that's needed," Sacco says. "We had to build consensus because it's not just offering something to the 25-year-old guest; it's also about making sure that our 55-year-old guests don't feel like we're leaving them behind in this transition. We had to fgure out how to move the covered wagon out of the equation without losing the heritage that the covered wagon stood for." Updated Menu Marketing One of the most immediate changes guests notice in the new design is the menu boards. "In the old design, we had two menu boards; one when you frst walked in, which we called a preview board, and another over the counter where orders are taken. They were old- school boards with a photo of the prod- uct and a price," he says. "We replaced the preview board with a couple of large, wireless digital fat-screen TVs that show promotions and menu items and that are easily customizable. If someone is com- ing in for a 50th birthday or if a family is having a welcome home party for a ser- vice member, we're able to put that on the screens and use them as a dynamic communication tool that guests see right when they walk in. Operators that really want to display a great product can take that whole 48-inch screen, whereas be- fore they were limited to an 8-by-14-inch panel on the menu board." Once guests pass those initial "pre-sell" video screens, they proceed to the newly re-designed menu board. While the old version featured photos of products and prices, as it had for the past 25 years, the new version represents a dramatic departure. The new boards eliminate the photos and group menu items by category, much like customers fnd in a fast-casual or casual dining restaurant, according to Sacco. "By organizing the menu by cat- egory, the new design enables us to market a lot more of what we sell," he notes. "It's a much better and more productive use of our menu-board real estate. It costs 35 percent to 40 percent less than our old boards and highlights at least 50 percent more products." An eclectic mix of residential/gallery- style frames separates and highlights the various menu categories. Refecting updates made on the culinary side, these include Light 'N' Healthy; Gold Label and Reserve Steaks; hand-crafted sandwiches, including Black Angus burgers; a section with kids' and specially priced seniors' menu items; "Best of the Rest" (i.e., pizza, giant stuffed baked potatoes, ribs and chicken dishes); buffet; and a featured event section that includes special steak and seafood entrees and highlights new appetizer/side selections such as brisket nachos, cheese fries and chili cheese fries. Overnight Makeover While in the planning stages for more than a year, the new look was literally achieved overnight in almost "Restau- rant: Impossible" fashion at the Massena Ponderosa unit. Within a matter of hours, the crew removed most of the old Western-themed artwork, gave the dark wood paneling and walls a fresh coat of paint, put up sheets of corrugated tin to serve as distinctive wall coverings in some areas and installed bold, fresh new graphic elements throughout. Servers also came back to work in updated uni- forms with more vibrant colors. "All of the design changes were fast, relatively simple and very cost- effective," notes Dave McDonald, senior vice president of purchasing, distribution and quality assurance, who served along with Sacco and chief marketing offcer Jon Rice on the internal design team. "And they all support and promote the three key words that form our new strate- gic mission: fresh, quality and favor." To that end, darker, dated wood fnishes in the old design were refreshed with warmer, brighter earth tones. Old wood paneling was painted what McDonald describes as "roasted-red pepper red" and trimmed in "espresso brown." Walls feature light colors above corrugated tin on the lower half and sport large photos adding Project Team • Tom Sacco, President and CEO • Jon Rice, Chief Marketing Offcer • Dave McDonald, Senior Vice Presi- dent, Purchasing, Distribution and Quality Assurance • Karla Tuma, Creative Designer Snapshot • HQ: Plano, Texas • Segment: Steakhouse/Buffet • No. of Locations: 200-plus domestic and international • Average unit size: 5,600 square feet, 175 seats • Refresh highlights: Brighter colors/ rich earth tones; tin wall coverings; big food and farm photos; updated food bar presentations, eco-friendly plateware, new staff uniforms • Refresh timeline: 33 percent of units to be converted by end of 2014; all units to be converted by end of 2015 • Savings per unit (new look vs. old): $20,000 to $30,000 The newly re-designed menu boards group menu items by category.

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