HuHot Mongolian Grill, a full-service restaurant chain based in Montana, is making its foray into the fast-casual industry with NuHu Mongolian Express. The company believes that the new restaurant, which will open in downtown Denver on February 12, is perfectly suited to satisfy Millennials’ preference for customization, freshness, and new flavor profiles.
Jeff Martin, NuHu’s COO, says the new store will distinguish itself from other fast casuals because of its cook-to-order process, which allows customers to choose raw ingredients to have grilled directly in front of them.
“Certainly a key component is the consumer control and customized meals,” Martin says. “That and the food’s freshness and the unique Asian flavors—the sweet, spicy, sour, hot—those things have been the cornerstone of our mission.”
While the fast-casual brand hopes to stay true to its original mission, NuHu will be more than a mini HuHot—a lesson Martin says he learned from the 2005 opening of another limited-service spinoff, HuHot Express.
“[HuHot Express] is still open and has many fans, but we grew from that experience,” he says. “We want to communicate a different message with NuHu, which is that you still have control, there’s still the great Asian flavor profile, but it’s quicker and it’s a little less expensive.”
Martin says the new restaurant has adjusted menu offerings to appeal to fast-casual diners, and will focus heavily on the lunch daypart, when Denver’s working crowd is on their midday breaks.
While he predicts that most sales will come from the “create your own bowl” stir-fry menu, Martin says six new signature items will make ordering convenient for busy professionals. In addition, NuHu will have one item that HuHot doesn’t offer: the grilled Roti Flatbread, specially designed for the new store and added to every bowl.
Martin says expanding HuHot’s service into the world of fast-casual dining will allow the company to reach its growth goals.
“We wanted another tool in our arsenal with which we could provide all of the great flavors and foods of HuHot to more parts of the country and more communities that may or may not support a large, full-service format,” he says.
If the model proves to be successful, Martin says, NuHu is likely to expand further within the Denver area.
By Emily Byrd