Dog Haus, Pancheros betting on simplicity
An increasing number of fast casual chains are catching on that mixing a heaping helping of simplicity along with a dash of variety is the recipe for financial success.
Why is that?
Rodney Anderson, CEO and founder of Pancheros Mexican Grill, and Hagop Giragossian, a partner at Dog Haus, believe a simple menu is best for three reasons:
- Lower food costs: By having a focused, yet customizable menu where a limited number of items can be mixed and matched based on a customer's desires, these restaurants are able to keep their food costs low
- Efficient operations: Operations that are streamlined capitalize on efficiency; when employees have fewer menu items to memorize and execute, they become experts at making quick, quality items
- Happy customers: Folks are spending less time sitting down for meals and more time snacking/grabbing quick bites on-the-go. With a narrow menu that doesn't lack the variety that diners seek, customers can expect a quick turnaround on their favorite go-to meals without having to head to unhealthy fast food restaurants.
Dog Haus, based in Pasadena, California, is also hitting its stride, signing a deal last year with American Development Partners to build more than 300 franchise locations in 12 states over the next six years.
See below to learn why both brands are betting on simplicity.
Q: How does your concept expect to capitalize on America's tendency to snack often, affordably and quickly?
Hagop Giragossian, a partner at Dog Haus
Giragossian: Quickly is a challenge when you cook everything from scratch. From the day we set out on our journey, quick was not in our vocabulary. Our goal is to serve the best quality food imaginable in the exact amount of time it takes to cook it to order in a quick-serve setting. The idea of gourmet and hot dog don't usually go hand in hand, but with the house-made ingredients and responsible sourcing that goes into each item, guests can really enjoy a quality meal within an affordable price range at Dog Haus.
Anderson: We've streamlined our menu of better-built burritos, bowls, salads, quesadillas and tacos to offer a specific range of go-to items with enough variety to give our guests the option to get creative and totally customize their orders when it suits them. Even though folks are more strapped for time now, that doesn't mean they want an inferior food product — they still want high-quality, fresh ingredients but in a quick fashion. When it comes to snacks, our Quesadillas and Chips and Queso are fantastic options. The quesadillas are light, refreshing and custom-made on a fresh-pressed tortilla. Our Chips and Queso is the ultimate grab-and-go, affordable, fulfilling snack that a wide range of our customers have come to enjoy.
Q: What are your tips for creating and maintaining a simple, easy-to-remember menu?
Anderson: Simply put, we keep it simple. Keep things simple and be great at those things. With the entire food preparation experience taking place right in front of our guests, we've noticed many of our customers don't ever have to look at the menu. We're delivering on our promise every time guests come through our doors: Entrées they can count on, made from fresh ingredients, arriving at lightning speed.
Giragossian: We have a lot of fun with the names of each menu item and we think that helps people remember that item. We have found not only does it stick in people's minds better than general descriptors, but it also allows them to form an association with the item. Once you hear names like the Fonz, Scott Baioli or Pig Lebowski it is hard to forget them.
Q: What are your tips for moving customers efficiently through food ordering and check-out? Does mobile pay/order ahead play into that?
Anderson: Everything we do considers throughput. How is the food made? How is the food ordered? How efficient can we be at the point of sale? We don't buy into the argument that fast-casual can't be as fast as fast food. We aim to operate at that level of speed while maintaining a standard of quality. We're launching mobile ordering and payment later this year. That experience has to be easy to understand and execute — and faster than the in-restaurant experience, which is already very fast.
Rodney Anderson, CEOandfounder of Pancheros Mexican Grill
Giragossian: We are in the process of building our new mobile ordering app through Olo that we feel strongly will help with our takeout and delivery business. If we can reduce the number of people that wait in line to just order food for takeout, we can improve the process and ultimately the customer experience.
Q: What challenges/obstacles have you overcome in streamlining your concept, and how did you overcome them?
Giragossian: We have an expansive menu so there are many challenges it presents from operations to distribution and ordering. We have built a menu that is almost entirely made up of proprietary products, making sure that every Dog Haus in the country is serving identical products. We have also made some changes to the menu over the years that have cut out products that are not proprietary when we found ourselves with an excess of one item that couldn't be utilized in different areas of the menu. As we continue to expand across the country it has been essential to address some of these challenges early on to make sure we don't run into distribution and execution problems down the line.
Anderson: We don't want our guests to have to study the menu board to find what they want. Ultimately, it comes down to our staff's discipline and maintaining the standard of excellence that our guests have come to expect. This gets back to the simplicity of the food prep, a consistent menu, and speed of throughput.
Topics: Operations Management
Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.www