Rōti Modern Mediterranean has unveiled a new décor package and new menu as it seeks to jump start its remaining store portfolio following reports that some of the chain’s restaurants had closed permanently.
The Chicago-based Rōti, which at one time operated 42 locations, currently has 13 units open, including one that opened earlier this month in Washington, D.C. An additional 12 stores have scheduled dates for reopening, Justin Seamonds, CEO of Roti, told Nation’s Restaurant News.
“We are currently focused on reopening as many of the locations that closed during COVID as possible,” he said.
Amid local reports that 14 locations have closed permanently, Seamonds said the company remains in discussions with landlords about how both parties can recover from the challenges of the pandemic.
“Our conversations with landlords are fluid, primarily due to COVID, and this has become a pretty normal part of the negotiation process throughout the industry as we’re coming out on the other side of the pandemic,” he said. “We are working closely with our landlords, who we know have been impacted as well, to reach our shared goal of safely reopening as soon as we can.”
As part of its reopening plans, the fast-casual Mediterranean concept has freshened up its appearance and shifted its menu from a focus on build-your-own to a relatively simple assortment of suggested bowls, salads and pitas — a process that had begun before the pandemic forced the closure of most of the company’s locations.
“We took a fresh look at everything — from menu, to hiring, to branding — and figured out how to create a more inviting environment, centered around providing a familiar but exciting experience for customers,” Seamonds said.
The updated décor package includes photography of Roti meals, digital menu signs and a redesigned food-assembly line that affords customers a better view of the chain’s ingredients, he said.
Rōti has also added a branded Apple Music playlist, in hopes of creating an “immersive experience” for customers, Seamonds said.
While customers still have the option to build their own customized bowls, the new menu prioritizes curated choices that include the Flip The Bird bowl, made with chicken roti, rainbow slaw, black lentils, curried carrots and amba and green skhug sauces, and the Born & Braised pita, made with lamb schwarma, saffron rice, marinated cabbage, curried carrot salad, dill cucumbers, pickled onions and topped with spicy green skhug and garlic sauces.
Among the new ingredient options are cauliflower rice, available as a side dish or as a base for bowls instead of saffron rice for those seeking to avoid carbohydrates in the diets. It is also used in the new Chicken Caulipower bowl, which includes chicken roti, tomato, cucumber, marinated feta, pepperoncini, with garlic and green skhug sauces.
The new menu was designed with a focus on the company’s purpose: “Food That Matters,” Seamonds said.
“Especially after COVID, people are looking for options where they do not need to compromise between delicious flavor and wholesome, healthy ingredients, so that is what we provide — the opportunity to ‘Crave Better,’” he said, citing the brand’s tag line.
As the company was considering its newest menu iteration, it conducted extensive research, including taste tests, and garnered feedback from both longtime fans and customers who were new to the Roti brand, Seamonds explained.
“From there, we carefully curated a menu consisting of unique and bold Mediterranean flavors, combining new options with existing favorites,” he said.