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Genghis Grill on how to pivot a build-your-own buffet-style concept during a pandemic

Genghis Grill chief brand officer Doug Willmarth discusses how their new ghost kitchen and off-premises focused strategy has helped their experience-based brand survive


Dallas-based fast-casual Mongolian barbecue concept, Genghis Grill, may have made their mark as a build-your-own stir fry buffet, but that experience does not translate well during a pandemic.

Genghis Grill was able to pivot to an off-premises-focused experience and launched a new ghost kitchen concept — Stir Fry Chef — with 12 pre-made bowls that allows customers to still order from and taste the food from the Genghis brand they love.

“The idea was born as we started seeing ghost kitchens around, like why couldn't we have what we call a shadow brand, […] with just great stir fry dishes that you order,” Genghis Grill chief brand officer Doug Willmarth told Nation’s Restaurant News. “And that would allow us to kind of change our image a little bit and get to a different consumer base, broaden out our sales a bit.”

The ghost kitchen uses the same ingredients and customers can even still customize their dishes a bit by picking their own proteins. Willmarth said that it was “just a matter of repackaging” to launch their ghost kitchen brand successfully and to reach a new, younger and more digitally-savvy demographic.

Right now, Stir Fry Chef is available in 38 out of 51 restaurants, with more expansion on the way. 

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