Tony Roma's rebrand pork-strami ribs Betsy Hansen

Tony Roma’s reveals menu revamp

Chain renews focus on ribs, adds small plates and communal seating

Romacorp Inc. is reconceptualizing its Tony Roma’s restaurants by modernizing the menu and design, and returning the chain to its roots as a rib specialist.

“We’re really excited with the change’s we’ve made,” chief marketing officer Jim Rogers said.

When he joined Tony Roma’s three years ago, the chain “had kind of lost its way in many ways,” he said. A global brand, with 20 locations in the United States and 142 restaurants internationally, the restaurant’s signs promised ribs, seafood and steaks, which Rogers said was too broad.

“The only thing else it could have said was salad and dessert,” he said.

So he and his team conducted research into how Tony Roma’s was perceived globally and redesigned the chain’s location on International Drive in Orlando, Fla., as its new prototype.

Betsy Hansen

“We pretty much changed everything,” Rogers said — décor, plateware, seating — creating an open design that allowed for communal seating, booths, a refreshed and expanded bar, private dining rooms, and a menu in which 35 out of around 42 items were new.

The new location has kept Tony Roma’s baby back ribs, onion loaf and Kickin’ Shrimp — breaded, fried and served with a spicy cream sauce. Other existing items have been improved, and a new category of small plates called Bones and Bites, including Buffalo ribs, cheeseburger sliders, bison meatballs and “Pork-Strami Ribs.”

The latter item is made of pork ribs marinated for 48 hours in pastrami brine, coated in a spice rub and served with agave mustard glaze.

Those ribs are also available in the menu’s rib section, along with original baby back ribs and beef ribs, and new lamb ribs with plum-tarragon glaze and boneless beef short rib in red wine-mushroom demiglace.

The chain has also added fried chicken — fried in waffle batter — and roasted chicken and three entrée salads: Chicken Caesar; grilled shrimp with romaine, roasted tomato, hearts of palm, radishes, fried chickpeas, grilled onions and peppers and crumbled goat cheese in lemon truffle vinaigrette; and a steak salad with romaine, white Cheddar cheese, bacon, asparagus, roasted tomatoes and red peppers, blue cheese crumbles and croutons in balsamic vinaigrette.

The bar has also been revamped, with 20 beers available on tap, and new cocktails, including a Moscow Mule and two Romatinis, which are an extension of the chain’s Romarita branding of its three Margarita variations.

The new Gin Blossom Romatini is made with Beefeater’s gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and blueberries, and the Tropical Eclipse Romatini is made with RumHaven Coconut Rum, Passoã passion fruit liqueur and pineapple juice.

Since revamping the Orlando restaurant, Romacorp has also introduced the new menu to corporate locations in Miami.

“It’s doing quite well, and we’re in the process of rolling it out to franchisees as they remodel,” Rogers said.

He added that new franchisees all want the new prototype and menu, and that existing franchisees support the renewed focus on ribs.

“We’re really pleased with the direction,” Rogers said.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.