The casual-dining chain known since 1978 as Mimi’s Cafe is now Mimi’s Bistro & Bakery.
The brand’s refresh is part of a wider reimagining strategy for the 77-unit, French-inspired concept that’s been owned by Le Duff America Inc., since purchasing it from Bob Evans Farms Inc. in 2013, said Tiffany McClain, the chain’s senior director of marketing.
“We spent two years researching where we’ve been and what we could do to strengthen the brand in the future and strengthen our connection to France,” McClain said. “We need to reinstate our culture internally and externally. … We weren’t lost, but there was a lot of different information around in terms of if you asked someone who we are and what we stood for, I’m not sure someone could answer that.”
Adding “bistro” to the chain’s name reflects a French feel, with a nod toward relaxation, while “bakery” emphasizes the restaurant’s grab-and-go offerings, she said.
“We looked at a transition from breakfast all day to more of a brunch all day, every day,” she said. “It’s that emotion that you get from brunch. There’s something exciting about that. It’s a release from your week, a release from your stress.”
Gone from Mimi’s menu are non-French items, such as tacos. New to the lineup are a Bites + Beverages offering featuring new house wines, cocktails and appetizers such as flatbreads, brochette, charcuterie boards, and hummus and crudites.
By the end of 2019, 13 units will have been fully updated, with art packages featuring Parisian bakeries and French landscapes. By early next year, Mimi’s hopes to have a new prototype designed with a focus on off-premise operations, McClain said. Mimi’s units are currently 7,500 to 8,000 square feet, so a new design might offer a smaller footprint option, she said.
The launch of a new name and logo is “the first of many phases” of a companywide revamp, she said. Future plans include enhanced training, upgraded technology, and menu and operational enhancements, all with an eye toward growing the legacy brand.
Mimi’s has seen sales decline steadily in recent years, dropping from more than $421 million in sales in 2008 to $181.6 million in systemwide sales a decade later, according to Technomic. The chain’s unit count decreased 44% during that time.
“We’re reinforcing that it’s about the guest and it is not about margins, dollars, cutting corners,” she said. “This is about reestablishing this as a place where you would want to go, where you would recommend.”