Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

MAY 2017

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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● ● ● ● ● ● MAY 2017 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • 101 chain profile I f turning a single concept around is hard, turning around multiple concepts in the same sector has to be much, much harder. That is the task facing Real Mex Restaurants, a Cypress, Calif.-based company that operates a total of eight brands in the broad Mexican food category. Even with multiple concepts and a period of overall solid growth for the restaurant industry, the firm has struggled for much of the past decade. Sales and store counts declined, and the CEO title changed hands multiple times. In 2012, Real Mex emerged from bankruptcy with new owners and a new leadership team led by CEO Bryan Lockwood. Real Mex is now showing signs of life, with the company posting positive same-store sales for more than a year. The turnaround, says Steve Vrabel, vice president of design and development, is due in part to leadership "mak- ing the tough decisions" to close multiple low-performing stores that were a drag on the entire company. "When you hear restaurants closing 10 or 12 or 15 units, everybody thinks they're in trouble. In this particular case, these were decisions that should have been made 10 years ago, and they weren't made," he says. As a result of this move and several others, Real Mex now operates on solid financial ground. It is now in position to revive not just its finances, but its brands as well. Over the past few years, the company has done just that, undertaking rede- signs or major development work on five of its eight concepts. Chevys Gets a Facelift One of the latest Real Mex concepts to get the redesign treat- ment is Chevys Fresh Mex, a 38-unit chain that last summer unveiled its new design in a mall in Northridge, Calif. The opening marks the concept's first new store in seven years. According to Daniel Harf, owner of Orlando-based branding and design firm Blue Ocean Works, the project began with an evaluation of the concept's strengths given the long time between openings. The key finding: Chevys wasn't getting enough credit for the quality of its farm-fresh ingre- dients, which are often locally sourced, or its scratch-made food. These qualities, he says, give Chevys the culture of an independent restaurant and lead directly to the brand's new tagline: Mexican Unchained. The restaurant's interior design also supports this un- chained approach. "We purposely selected materials, chairs, furniture and fixtures so there was a little bit of randomness to the design so it looked homemade, like the food," says Harf. For example, the design mixes and matches light fixtures in the front of the house. Seating also varies, as does the upholstery used in booths. Despite this randomness, plenty of thought went into the front-of-the-house design, Harf stresses. The operation's color palette contains wood tones with turquoise and orange elements. These colors may be common in Mexican restau- rants, but Chevys uses plenty of creativity in deploying them. The operation's ceiling represents the clearest example of ● CEO: Brian Lockwood ● Vice President of Development: Steve Vrabel ● Vice President of Marketing: Steve Greer ● Interior Designer: Daniel Harf, Blue Ocean Works ● Kitchen Design: Steve Vrabel; Daniel Harf ● Equipment Dealer: M Tucker, a division of Singer Equipment NY LLC KEY PLAYERS Chevys' prep begins at about eight o'clock each morning.

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