While a host of casual-dining chains launch fast-casual offshoots, one brand is taking the opposite approach.
In January, the fast-casual Smiling Moose Rocky Mountain Deli opened a 3,500-square-foot full-service restaurant in Denver called Smiling Moose Sandwich Grill & Bar. The restaurant is almost twice the size of a typical Smiling Moose, with a full bar, expanded menu and sports bar ambiance.
The 15-unit chain’s motto is “eat messy.” For this new concept the tagline is “eat messy … drink neat,” says Shay Baumhauer, marketing director for Smiling Moose Restaurant Concepts.
“This just expands on the Moose principles,” she says.
The concept came about when Smiling Moose executives secured a lease on a never-opened, full-service restaurant for what Baumhauer says was a good deal.
“We were trying to figure out what to do with the location,” she says. “This was not the right place to do another fast-casual restaurant. … How the restaurant was laid out did not cater to a queue line with registers.”
The restaurant plans to implement a grab-and-go counter, predominantly for neighborhood office workers and college students, as well as partnering with third-party outfits for delivery.
The space seats 180, with an additional 20 seats on a patio that’s slated to open this spring. It includes eight TVs, two marble-topped community tables, and a separate bar area with a lounge. In the future, the restaurant will host karaoke and trivia nights.
“Millennials are going out for an experience now,” Baumhauer says.
Before opening the new concept, the chain hired two managers with extensive experience at large, full-service concepts. They helped draft training manuals for employees and created a training program for servers and others that ran for several weeks before the opening.
This is the brand’s first restaurant to have a kitchen display system to help each of the four cook stations visualize each part of a dish, she says. The new restaurant is still tinkering with the build process of its dishes, she says.
Smiling Moose officials are currently eyeing real estate options to expand the full-service concept, while growing the original brand.
“We’re hoping to grow both brands equally,” Baumhauer says.