Pei Wei launched Pei Wei Test Kitchen, a new restaurant located near the company’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. The location is open to the public and is the only location at which guests can try and give feedback on items being tested for national rollout for the company’s 2017 rebrand.
“Since our Test Kitchen is an integral part of our national rebrand strategy, we want to get more authentic feedback on the changes—both now and in the future—from actual customers, so we decided to get out there with them in an open-to-the public restaurant,” says Clay Dover, Pei Wei’s chief marketing officer. “Most test kitchens are inside corporate offices with focus groups offering feedback, and we don’t think that you get the same quality of feedback in that setting.”
There are both new and refined dishes on the menu, Dover says, including healthy and flame-grilled options. Dishes include Chilled Soba Noodles; Asian Street Tacos available in Korean BBQ, Banh Mi Style, and Teriyaki varieties; Wok-Tossed Wings; Kimchi Fried Rice Bowls; Korean BBQ Steak Bibimbap; a Spicy Peanut Chicken Satay Bowl; Vietnamese Chicken Pho; and Pork Belly Ramen.
“Our menu innovations highlight our ‘flavor with purpose’ mission, which is all about offering bold, Pan-Asian flavors and made-to-order dishes using traditional Asian cooking methods and ingredients that are mindfully selected for their nutritional benefits,” Dover says. “It’s a modern approach to fast casual that we think connects with guests on a deeper level—it’s about their well-being and fitting in with their active and health-focused lifestyles.”
The Test Kitchen also received interior and exterior updates, including new artwork and signage, as well as an open-kitchen concept that will allow guests to see the preparation and ingredients that go into their food.
In addition to trying new dishes, the company will also be trying new communication methods by using the My Wei Rewards program to survey customers who have tried new menu items.
Though the Test Kitchen was launched to aid specifically with the 2017 rebrand, Dover says, the concept might also prove useful in future Pei Wei innovation.
“Like everything else that happens with the Test Kitchen, we’ll see what the guest response is and act accordingly,” he says. “If it turns out to be an effective driver of innovation in the long term, I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t continue to use this amazing new tool we have for trying new things, getting guest feedback in real-time, and acting quickly to roll it out to the broader audience.
By Peggy Carouthers