Zoe’s Kitchen Inc. opened a new prototype Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., that will serve as a testing ground for new concept features, the CEO says.
Kevin Miles, president and CEO of the Plano, Texas-based fast-casual brand said the Raleigh restaurant, the company’s 247th unit, features an updated décor, an open kitchen, an enhanced beverage program and the introduction of falafel as a new menu item, which will be rolled out systemwide.
“The new look really speaks to dinner with beer and wine on tap now,” Miles said in an interview. “And the décor really brings ‘Mediterranean’ more to the forefront.” Currently, Zoe’s daypart sales split is 60 percent lunch and 40 percent dinner, he said.
Exterior changes include new patio format with softer seating and a lighted “tower” with abbreviated “ZK” signage.
“The tower is all lighted up now rather than just the stripes on the awning, so it really pops and you can see it from the street,” Miles said. The new exterior will be used on sites that “are conducive.”
Aspects of this new Zoe’s Kitchen units will begin appearing in late 2018 and early 2019 in new and remodeled units, which range from 2,500 to 2,800 square feet, he said.
The new Raleigh unit also features a kitchen that has been opened to the dining room, Miles said. It also features the brand’s new kitchen display system.
“The customer can come in and actually see the work and the freshness of the products with the teams cutting fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said.
With the opening, Zoe’s Kitchen is also introducing baked falafel, which will be rolled out to the system in February.
“This location also features some menu innovation,” Miles said. The falafel, which has seen success in six test stores, can be added to salads, pitas and bowls.
Along with falafel, the unit is testing Zoe’s “better-for-you” beverage program at a newly redesigned beverage station.
The drinks include kambucha, cold-brew coffee, tangerine and turmeric fresca, a fig and vanilla cooler, a blackberry-mint refresher and hibiscus karkadé tea. For adult beverages, the new unit offers wines and beers on tap as well as made-to-order Moroccan sangria.
Miles said the new unit’s patio is better integrated into the design.
“We’ve really upgraded the patio and incorporated it into the look and feel of the restaurant,” he said. It includes heaters and cooling-misting fans with soft seating and greenery.
The exterior also features a variety of materials, from steel and stone to tile. A mural highlights the 21 countries of the Mediterranean.
The interior features lighter colors, Spanish-styled floor tiles and an expanded grab-and-go counter. “Convenience matters,” Miles said. The company said that, excluding the catering business, about 48 percent of sales are off premise and 52 percent are dine-in.
Uniforms for staff members have also been modernized, featuring taglines such as “Fresh Made Mediterranean,” “Love Life Live Zoës” and “Eat What You Love, Love How You Feel.”
Founded in 1995 in Birmingham, Ala., Zoe’s Kitchen has expanded to 20 states.
“The brand has evolved over the past 10 years,” Miles said, “so we want to continue to innovate.”
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