Atlanta-based fast casual Moe’s Southwest Grill recently unveiled a new prototype that it will roll out in new units this year.

The changes made for the new prototype, though, are subtler than those made at most brands that revamp their concept and focus mostly on sustainability, efficiency, and a cleaner store look.

Paul Damico, president of Moe’s, says the brand is not trying to dramatically change the core Moe’s branding.

“What we were trying to do with our new prototype is not change the engine, because our cook line and our sequence of service works just great for us,” Damico says. “What we were trying to do is get a little bit more of a ‘wow’ factor for when guests come into our restaurants. We wanted to brighten it up, we wanted to declutter it, and we wanted to reduce ongoing maintenance costs.”

Changes in the new prototype include energy-efficient LED and CFL lights, low-VOC-emission paints, and walls made from post-industrial recycled content. The company even included bigger holes on the garbage cans for easier trash disposal.

Some bigger changes Moe’s included in the new prototype are updated furniture, brighter colors on the walls, and an expanded salsa bar.  

“That was kind of hidden within the design of the restaurant,” Damico says. “You didn’t notice it the minute you walked in the front door. So we wanted to punch up the size and the graphics around that salsa bar.”

The menuboard in the new prototype was also refreshed, and was tailored to suggestions made by customers who wanted faster speed of service and did not want to be “nickel and dimed,” Damico says.

“The menuboard in a fast-casual, or even fast food, restaurant is probably the single biggest thing that can move the needle positive or move the needle negative,” he says.

While Moe’s is known for the signature “Welcome to Moe’s” call-out from crewmembers every time a customer walks in the door, Damico says the company wanted to make the statement more prominent. The new prototype features it in giant block letters on the brightened up walls.

“When I walk into a restaurant, I look at the floor, I look at the ceiling, I look at the furniture,” he says. “When a guest walks in, really what they’re seeing are the images on the wall. Before, while the colors were slightly bright, it was all one color. What we’ve done with the new prototype now is really call out areas of the restaurant that are different and important.”

One location to feature the new prototype, an Atlanta store owned by franchisee Mark Monroe, has seen sales increases of more than 20 percent since revealing the new design elements.

Damico says all new units will include elements of the new prototype—Moe’s is planning for at least 50 new stores in 2011—and that they will also be made available to existing franchisees.

By Sam Oches

Design, Fast Casual, Growth, News, Restaurant Operations, Sustainability, Moe's Southwest Grill