The Caribbean-inspired menu at the 107-unit Miami-based Pollo Tropical didn’t jive with its look. Muted earth tones, stucco and dark woods conveyed a Mexican concept, according to consumer research conducted by the chain. When parent company Fiesta Restaurant Group decided to expand to Texas, a new prototype was in the plan. “We couldn’t come into Texas with a Caribbean concept that looks Mexican,” says CEO Tim Taft. “Texans would have thought it was just another Mexican restaurant.”
First on the punch list: lightening up the color scheme. Bright pastels now coat the exterior of the building and are repeated inside on tables, signage and wall panels. The focal point of the interior space is the Saucing Island. As guests stand in line, they pass by colorful salsas, made with mango, pineapple and other tropical ingredients. Once they order, they can watch their food being cooked through a large window into the kitchen. “Both these features reinforce the freshness message,” says Taft. The kitchen holds a two-sided “make table,” so cooks can hand off orders to the dining room or drive-thru.
Fresh thinking went into the drive-thru, too. “The windows in the new store are raised two feet higher than before. When customers sit down, the cars in the drive-thru are hidden,” says Taft. What they see instead is tropical greenery. “This is the first time we have a building that matches the Caribbean flavor of our menu,” he says.
The new prototype launched in early April in the Dallas area, and so far, “the numbers are stronger than for any unit we’ve opened,” says Taft. Five more are under construction in Dallas and others are planned for Houston and San Antonio.
Concept: Pollo Tropical
Location: Addison, Texas
Footprint: 3,500 square feet
Seating: 80 inside; 15 on patio
Key features: Vivid colors and imagery, palm tree landscaping, glass window into exhibition kitchen, hidden drive-thru