Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

JAN 2019

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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● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● JANUARY 2019 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • 87 chain profile A ground beef taco made with American cheese and a parmesan-dusted shell probably wouldn't qualify as authentic to most people. But for Jimboy's Tacos it's as authentic as it gets. That's the same taco that founder Jim "a.k.a. Jimboy" Knudsen first served out of a trailer in Lake Tahoe, Nev., 65 years ago. "We don't consider ourselves authentic Mexican food," says Robert Andersen, CEO of Jimboy's North America. "Jimboy just set out to make great-tasting tacos." According to Andersen, this great-tasting taco developed a following. Customers included the cast and crew of the western- themed television series "Bonanza," which filmed nearby, and even members of Hollywood's Rat Pack. That taco got so popular, in fact, that it became the foun- dation of a mini taco empire, with Knudsen's daughter and grandson now serving on the leadership team. Jimboy's now counts 40-plus units in California and Nevada. Even today the original taco accounts for about two-thirds of Jimboy's sales. While the chain's own take on the taco remains suc- cessful, more recently this unusual offering has presented an identity problem for Jimboy's. Take the chain's legacy interior design, for example. According to Andersen, Jimboy's previous prototype had a "Mayan, Indiana Jones-type theme" that didn't quite connect with customers. Mexican design el- ements in a restaurant that doesn't really serve Mexican food doesn't make sense, after all. "We were finding it very difficult to connect to the his- tory of the company where it makes sense to the guest when they came into the restaurant," says Andersen. Hired in 2015, one of Andersen's first initiatives as CEO was to bring in a branding company to help reconnect Jimboy's to its roots and define the chain in a time when most guests are familiar with traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex tacos. This effort fell into place when a member of the brand team really defined Jimboy's signature taco, Andersen says. "We've always struggled with what we call this. One of the guys who was working on the project said, 'hey, this is the original American taco.' It's kind of a play on our personality and Jimboy's personality in the marketplace." With The Original American Taco tagline helping to crystalize Jimboy's identity, the chain has rolled out a new prototype offering guests an energetic, slightly retro dining experience, as well as a new, more efficient kitchen design that improves the return on investment for franchise partners. Perfect Imperfect The first of these new prototype stores opened in summer 2018 in Huntington Beach, Calif. With Jimboy's now em- bracing its roots, the location is truer to the chain's food and celebrates its heritage. The new design has a retro aesthetic that is intentionally a bit unpolished. "We like to say it's a perfect imperfect design," says Andersen. "We didn't want to create an environ- ment that is symmetrical and sterile and completely the same with every restaurant you walk into ... The trailer was really an imperfect environment. [Knudsen] just painted Jimboy's on the front of it. We're trying to carry forward that theme, that it doesn't have to be perfect to be great." That first imperfect trailer, in fact, makes an appearance in the new design. The ordering counter, for instance, has a white covering designed to look like the outside of the trailer, with rivets and even faux wear and tear toward the bottom. The front of the counter includes brand messages like The Original American Taco and Tacos Made in the USA. The Original American Taco message also appears on a nearby feature wall covered with real wood. The planks, notes Andersen, come in different thicknesses, creating the asymmetry Jimboy's seeks. The large Tacos sign, lit with Edison-style bulbs, adds additional asymmetry with several letters set askew. The new prototype's celebration of Jimboy's heritage goes beyond subtle nods, though. One wall has a stylized timeline of Jimboy's stenciled in dark red on a red back- ground. On another, Jimboy himself appears on a vinyl wall covering, standing in front of that first taco trailer. Smaller Menu, Smoother Kitchen While Jimboy's new prototype embraces imperfection, the design's new kitchen brings the food production process as close to perfect as possible. From an operational perspective, Andersen says the goal of the redesign was to improve the kitchen's flow to increase throughput and speed up food delivery. Jimboy's achieved this in part by cutting out some menu items. The chain's menu had expanded over the years. Removing some of the lower-selling offerings that didn't fit well into the kitchen's flow helped improve operations, says Andersen. ● CEO: Bob Andersen ● Chief Financial Officer: Erik Freeman ● Chief Development Officer: James Freeman ● President: Karen Knudson Freeman ● Director of Marketing: Dina Guillen ● Director of Operations: Todd Swiderski ● Interior Designer: Micah Wimberley, Culture Farm ● Architect: Herman Jack Ajamanian, Kobra Design ● Kitchen Design Consultant: Trey Hoang, Avanti Restaurant Solutions ● Equipment Dealer: Avanti Restaurant Solutions KEY PLAYERS

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