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Mooyah Tweaks New Store Design in COVID-19 Response


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Mooyah's new store design features smaller dining rooms, plus space for off-premises orders.

Mooyah is tweaking its still-new restaurant prototype design to reflect the post-COVID-19 reality of smaller dining rooms and more space for off-premises curbside and delivery orders. That’s one of many quick shifts as the burger franchise executes an ongoing five-year plan that includes a more mature logo that’s less “Yahoo!” and more “this is a burger establishment.”

For nearly two months now, Mooyah’s leadership team has been meeting twice daily as the significance of the pandemic-induced crisis first became clear. One of the Texas-based brand’s first responses was implementing a pre-planned free delivery promotion to drive more customers to order directly through the brand’s refreshed mobile app.

Stressing that “we’re bullish on delivery in general,” Mooyah President and Chief Operating Officer Tony Darden said the brand sees profit, even on orders that originally come from third-party delivery providers, but its free delivery program is critical to increasing profitability with the assumption that delivery and curbside will remain in demand after the current crisis.

“Once we understood exactly what was going on and where we were going from the mandates to shelter in place … it wasn’t even a question, we just knew we needed to move that promotion up,” Darden said. “We did that at the onset of the crisis, and have since extended it and plan to continue offering free delivery as these federal mandates are in place.”

For its new store design rollout, the second next-gen buildout opened in Orlando, Florida, during the first week of March, meaning the franchisee only had one week of normalcy before “everything was scaled back.”

The cornerstones of the design template include smaller dining rooms that are segmented to allow more intimate areas or spaces for those who enjoy the “hustle and bustle” at lunch, space for off-premises orders with separate entrances, as well as kiosks for customers looking to skip the cashier line. Behind the line, the new design includes a “stacked line” to make the production area more efficient for back-of-the-house employees.

Now, in the wake of the pandemic, Mooyah has gone back to its architect and design firm to consider further tweaks to the 2,300-square-foot restaurant template, possibly including even smaller dining rooms.

Darden (pictured above), who first joined Mooyah in 2019 after more than a decade with Panera Bread, said the brand’s quickly reshaped marketing campaign was intended to drive more guests to order and pay through its mobile app, which he said was significant from a unit-economics standpoint.

“We were behind the curve a year ago in terms of delivery, so the first phase was, we’ve got to put a minimally viable product out there as quickly as we can because … we’re missing sales,” he said. “And then the second tier was, we gotta get this integrated and, at the same point, we need to get people to our app because that’s “where the magic happens.”

Diving into the economics of the brand’s off-premises strategy, Darden said it’s pushing both native and third-party delivery programs from the brand’s experience that, while fees are higher with third-party orders, there’s still “some incremental profitability” for such outside orders.

“We went from being a very proactive organization to reacting to what we’re seeing daily coming from society,” he added. “I don’t know that anybody gets energized by a crisis like this, but you know what? We’re in it, and now that we’re in it … we’re going to come at it from a point of contribution and are going to do everything in our power to get all of our restaurants to the other side of this.”

A version of this story originally appeared in Franchise Times' sister publication Food On Demand.

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