After 41 years in business, Mimi’s kickstarted a refresh project July 9 it believes will strengthen the chain’s connection to France, and help accentuate differentiating traits amid a growing fast-casual category. The modernization also includes a new name: Mimi’s Café is now Mimi’s Bistro + Bakery.

Philippe Jean, chief operating officer for Le Duff America, Inc., which bought the brand from Bob Evans in 2013 for $50 million, said creating a new name and face for Mimi’s was long overdue. While pushing the French positioning, it will also maintain the “heritage that made our guests fall in love with our brand in the first place,” he said.

To get the change started, Mimi’s introduced a Bites + Beverages menu with Mimi’s House Wine developed specifically for the brand in Bordeaux, France. There are also new cocktails and appetizers. The House Red and House White Wine run $6 per glass and $22 per bottle. Some cocktail options include: the French 75, a twist on the classic, the French Mule, and a martini selection. Appetizers on the menu feature Hummus & Crudités, Brochette Trio, and Flatbreads.

Mimi’s, founded in 1978, has 77 U.S. locations across 16 states. It plans to complete 10 renovations by fall, with new interiors, furniture, bar areas, and innovations in technology.

Le Duff runs Brioche Dorée, Ristorante Del Arte, Fournil Pierre, and La Madeline, among others. Last February, the company sold Timothy’s World Coffee and mmmufines to focus on launching Brioche Dorée in the U.S. The company also previously dealt Bruegger’s Bagels to Caribou Coffee to spur growth of its French-heritage brands, including La Madeleine, Brioche Dorée and Mimi’s. At the time, Le Duff said, “The sale of Timothy’s and mmmuffins is another important step in sharpening our focus as a French company.”

The Mimi’s refresh will do just that on the brand level. Tiffany McClain, Mimi’s head of marketing, took some time to chat with QSR about the changes, what it means for the brand, and what’s still to come.

What was the driving force behind the name change? And how do you think it better aligns Mimi’s message with its guest experience?

After 40 years it was clear that we needed to reinstate the culture, vision and North Star of the brand. As a French-inspired concept we wanted to strengthen the connection to our heritage and where it all begin—our cuisine. We felt it was of the upmost importance that our namesake should reflect that connection and our commitment to great food, a welcoming atmosphere and the best of bakery.

Talk about the connection with France and how that sets Mimi’s apart, and why it was so important to emphasize with this change.

At Mimi’s we’re focused on our heritage and strengthening our connection with France. We have the privilege as a French-inspired brand, to be owned by a renowned French restaurant company, Groupe LeDuff and we are led by president who began his restaurant success in France and now lives in the United States. With these connections to France and the authenticity it rewards us, it was important to that we have integrity in the food we were presenting, the beverage options and the environment our guests enjoy.

How does the new Bites + Beverages menu fit into the strategy? And how does it really reinforce the family and social gathering strength of the brand

The core of our brand’s value is celebration of life around friends, food and family. This new menu allows us a vehicle to communicate those celebrations year-round in a way that can refresh seasonally, satisfy guest cravings and bring them the best of French-inspired shareable appetizers, desserts and beverages. Something that will really bring people together to encourage laughter and making memories around the table.

What are some design changes guests can expect to see?

You’ll begin to notice right away a ‘refinement’ of our menu and décor. Our heritage and connection to France was weakened and left a lot of guests wondering what kind of restaurant we were. Our goal in this refinement is to create something that truly points our guest toward the embodiment of what French-inspired means. Whether that is in a fine wine from our own Mimi’s collection from Bordeaux, our craveable French Pot-Roast, or the always comforting Croissant and Muffin collection along with our specialty coffees in a cozy atmosphere liken to a bistro in Paris.

In the 10 locations that will receive an update before years end, you will see a cohesive art collection of photographs from the streets and shops of Paris, the rolling vineyards in France and the beautiful gardens throughout the countryside. Additionally, we aim to bring the process of patisserie and our cooking techniques to the forefront. Holistically, our goal is to open up the floor plans to allow for larger seating in the bar area, an easily accessible to-go area with a showcase bakery and patisserie and an open, theatrical kitchen showing our team members artistry with your selections. 

You’ll also note that our environment and design changes will include comfortable seating, in both the waiting, bar and dining areas – encouraging guests to invest their time and relax in their destination for dining.

What are some technology innovations on deck?

For the past two years, we have invested in vendor partnerships that allow us the ability to rebuild our technical stack the ground up. With that, we know a strong digital strategy is a must as we focus on our guest experience. We have discovered that even the latest and greatest tools and platforms lack the basic necessities for a multi-unit brand such as managing pricing tiers, varied hours of operation and data backups. Our marketing and IT teams worked together seamlessly with hand-selected vendors to cohesively generate a plan that has worked for Mimi’s. To date, our IT teams have successfully updated all locations with a SD-WAN platform network that includes dual auto-failover Internet connections, dual switches with 24-7 monitoring and security management. Our team has also strengthened our tech stack with MetTel’s platform to eliminate points of failure in Internet, network and WiFi services as well as a POS update to Aloha’s newest platform. These mandatory tech updates allow our teams a runway to achieve full integrations in reservation platforms, third-party, more functionality and better experiences with our off-premises programs.

Marketing & Promotions, Story, Mimi's Cafe