Speed of service and line efficiency has been a multi-tiered development as well. And it gets down to granular details such as what customers view throughout their stay. There were white cutting boards before. Bartlett says these, naturally, would get dirty and guests noticed. Moe’s swapped them with stainless steel—one of Monroe’s ideas.
As customers queue up, they’d also often see ingredients spill over as employees built bowls and burritos. Moe’s took a look at how big pans were, what the service placement was, and just, overall, how it could clean up presentation.
Moe’s even rethought the spoon it was using to scoop ingredients. They were color coded previously, which Bartlett says could detract from the experience. You’d see green, yellow, and red portioning devices. The team tested different options and landed on a stainless steel spoon that doesn’t take away from the food. “The colors pop,” Bartlett says. “And it aligned with streamlining and making sure, for instance, when you see a quarter pan of chicken versus a nice half pan of chicken; that half pan might be half empty because we’re cooking to make sure we have the freshest product. But it visually looks more abundant.”
“And then, probably one of the most impactful things we created was to transform our flavor profile,” Bartlett adds. “We know there’s two things that guests really like about Moe’s. One, it’s the atmosphere. They love the look of Moe’s, but it’s also the flavors.’
Bartlett says Moe’s is the only brand among its competitive set to serve all-white meat chicken (it also has a dark option). Moe’s queso is the stuff of legend, too, he adds. But there was a clear chance to lean into all of it.
Moe’s ideated new sauces for the VICTORY evolution, including “Moe’s Sauce,” which is described by Chew Boom as Greek yogurt, red wine vinegar, and “Southwest spices.” There’s also a hotter “Kickin’ Cayenne” that comprises “three kinds of peppers and zesty seasonings,” and “Poblano Crema,” a mix of roasted poblano peppers, avocado, sour cream, garlic, and lime juice. Like Moe’s Sauce, it skews mild.
"We’ve always come out highest in taste in the surveys and so the sauces are just another way to give people choice into what they do," Monroe says. "Again, to me, the headline is, in the last, probably 24 months, Moe’s has leapfrogged everybody else with what we’re bringing to market.”
Sales back Monroe’s enthusiasm. His Moe’s are in their third year of double-digit comps. The first was “9 percent and change,” then 14 percent last year, and 12 percent so far in 2023. “Most important is how does this impact sales,” he says. “Look, it’s a challenging environment. So all the changes we’re doing are counteracting that. Again, to me, it just goes back to the best—this is the best model of the brand right now.”
One highlight in particular stands out to Monroe. Moe’s update features a beverage station that’s, “by far,” he says, “the best in the nation.”
It’s visible as guests walk in, alongside the revamped salsa lineup. There’s a standard fountain setup with Coca-Cola offerings, tea, three different Hubert’s Lemonades, and a top-of-the-line self-serve ICEE machine Monroe says is a hit during Kid’s Eat Free days.
But not to be lost is “the good ice.” Moe’s even created a sticker that says, “we have the good ice” and pasted it to the machine. This might sound glib, but it’s a movement that’s been written about by everybody from The New Yorker to It’s a Southern Thing. Also known as “nugget ice,” or “pellet ice,” it’s layers of flaked ice frozen together—a process that creates pockets of air that make the ice chewy. Sonic Drive-In and Chick-fil-A are two brands that have satisfied this cult for years. Now, so is Moe’s.
“In all seriousness, there’s a subset of people, probably 20 percent, who know exactly what the good ice means,” Monroe says.