The Smiling Moose Deli has launched a rebranding and name change designed to refocus on the concept’s Rocky Mountain roots with the hope of sparking new growth, the company told Nation's Restaurant News.
The 19-unit Smiling Moose Deli is being reworked as Smiling Moose Rocky Mountain Deli as part of a brand overhaul that includes a new prototype design and upgrades to the menu, said Sue Daggett, the chain’s president and CEO. Daggett joined the company about two years ago.
Daggett said the rebranding was needed in part to bring a more cohesive look to the concept, which was founded in 2003 and had grown in seven states with varying restaurant designs over the years.
“Development has happened in such a way that we have pretty different delis out there, in terms of trade dress,” she said. “We hadn’t really gone through the process to develop a national look, or a repositioning that would impact the entire system.”
Now, with plans to reach 100 delis by 2020, mostly franchised, the chain has invested in a new restaurant design currently in place in two restaurants in North Dakota.
In the first quarter of 2016, two more flagship units will open in the Colorado towns of Wynkoop and Edwards with the new design, and existing restaurants will be remodeled to incorporate elements of the rebranding over the next three years, Daggett said.
The new prototype features more natural materials, like wood, iron piping and steel, to create a rustic mountain feel. Imagery on the walls show trees and maps of the Rocky Mountains, along with boot prints and moose tracks to evoke an outdoorsy adventure.
“It’s inspired by the Rocky Mountains and gives you a sense of adventure without being too in-your-face Colorado,” Daggett said.
The chain will roll out three levels of the design to give franchisees remodel options that make sense for their specific location, she added.
The company’s website was relaunched earlier this year with the new name.
And a new menu is rolling out with about 20 new or recreated items. Daggett said the concept is going for bolder flavors and fresher ingredients, with a variety of more healthful options including sandwiches lower in fat and calories, gluten-free or vegetarian.
The menu will include a Buffalo Blue Wrap with grilled chicken, housemade blue cheese coleslaw with hot sauce in a tortilla and the Citrus Super G Salad with grilled chicken, candied pecans, apples, feta, arugula and chopped kale with a citrus ginger vinaigrette.
New to the menu is the hot Basecamp Breakfast Skillet with scrambled eggs, seasoned potatoes, sausage, melted cheddar, diced tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach, served in a skillet.
“We wanted more room to play beyond the traditional expectations of a deli,” Daggett said.
The rebranding pushes Smiling Moose more firmly into the fast-casual segment, Daggett said. Previously, the brand operated in the “QSR plus” niche between quick service and fast casual.
The chain went through a slight price increase to support the new menu, but the average check remains around $10 to $11, what is typical for fast casual.
At the four restaurants with the new menu in place, preliminary results indicate a boost in transactions, and Daggett said the new items are designed to bring down food costs.
The fast-casual sandwich space is crowded with national competitors like Potbelly, Jimmy John’s, Jersey Mike’s and Panera Bread, but Daggett said Smiling Moose hopes to become a premier player known for its hot sandwiches and chopped and tossed salads.
“With our quality of product, fresh ingredients and bold flavors, we don’t think there’s anybody who’s won that space yet,” she said.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
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