VIDEO: La Madeleine's new fast-casual service

VIDEO: La Madeleine's new fast-casual service

La Madeleine, the 60-unit French café concept based in Dallas, has renovated a second unit using a fast-casual service model, replacing the cafeteria-style line in use for the chain's 27-year history with video menu boards and a single point of order.

The second renovation opened at the end of May in Addison, Texas, and a third is planned for this fall in Virginia, according to Phil Costner, chief operating officer of La Madeleine. The renovations were introduced in a Dallas unit in March.

Get a walk through with the COO. [3]

The company also has altered its brand tagline from “French Bakery & Café” to “Country French Café.”

“It’s more of an evolution than an over-night, switch-out-all-the-signs kind of thing,” said Costner, who added that the changes have been going on over the past two years. “We have a rich heritage. It has all the pillars of success; we just needed to reenergize it.”

The truncated name, Costner said, “helps the non-core user or first-time user know exactly who we are and what to expect.” The new menus and video menu boards feature a lot of food photography, he added, “so you can almost taste the sacher torte and feel the steam coming off the bowl of soup.”

The latest Addison renovation adds vibrating coasters to alert guests when their orders are ready to pick up, rather than the first renovation’s use of numbers and letters on wooden spoons and table runners to deliver customers’ orders. Bruce E. Saring, director of operations for La Madeleine, said that has led to some labor savings.

The turn times at the first renovation in Dallas has been cut in half, Costner added, making the dining experience much quicker for guests. “None of that time is saved at the table,” he said. “All of that time was picked up in the queuing and ordering process.”

Costner said the café concept has a loyal audience and must be certain any changes will hold loyal and new guests.

“We do very well with the more mature audience,” he said. “As we get deeper into the core, the question is: How do we expand the 35- to 54-year-old category to the 25- to 54-year-old category? How do we make sure what we are doing doesn’t offend or turn off the 54- to 65-year-olds?”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]