Texas-based fast casual Mama Fu’s Asian House is preparing to launch a secondary menu from which only customers in the know can order.
The Black Market Menu, which is set to debut in late January, will feature a rotating collection of items that won’t be featured on the regular menuboard.
“Historically we’ve had a couple menu items that have kind of been black-market items—items that we’ll make for guests because they know about them and they ask for them,” says Gary Bahl, marketing director for Mama Fu’s. “So we took the heritage of that idea, where our guests who know us the best and really are our loyal users come in and request certain menu items.”
Four items will initially be featured on the Black Market Menu: Egg Drop Soup, Vietnamese Pho Rice Noodle Soup, Bangkok Green Curry, and Báhn Mì. The first menu will last until May, and the Black Market Menu will be a seasonal offering.
Steve MacManus, chief operating officer for Mama Fu’s, says the company will use the rotating menu to test items for potential use on the permanent menu.
“We’re constantly looking at redeveloping or putting new menu items on. This is a vehicle now for us to be able to do this,” he says. “It will always give us an opportunity to look at our main menu, do a little menu engineering on it. What is selling, what is producing profit?”
The company is planning to promote the Black Market Menu’s launch, but to then be a little more discreet about the offering.
Bahl says that with the Black Market Menu, Mama Fu’s wanted to reward loyal guests with more innovation.
“Some of our guests are heavy users, they come into our restaurants several times a month,” Bahl says. “So part of the intent of the Black Market is to always have something new and different out there so our guests never get tired of the same options.”
Randy Murphy, CEO and president of Mama Fu’s, says the Black Market Menu will also offer flexibility for the company’s franchisees.
“Maybe people in Louisiana might have a different palate than people in Pittsburgh or people in Austin,” Murphy says. “We’ve got a catalog of great things that can go on that menu, it gives a little flexibility to that franchise partner to pick the best dishes for their particular region.”
By Sam Oches