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TRUSTED GLOBALLY FOR OVER 30 YEARS IN FRANCHISING

Refreshed, Revamped, Revitalized: The Journey to On The Border’s New Bolder Menu

 

Like many other restaurant brands, when April 2020 came along and it was announced that the country was going into lockdown, we weren’t sure what that meant for our brand. On-premise dining was put to a halt, and we knew we’ve had to evolve and pivot with the times and address the new needs and expectations of our guests. We took the time to reassess our brand and operations to identify areas where we could improve to come out of the pandemic even stronger. One of the outcomes of this assessment was the decision to revamp and revitalize our menu. 

 

 

Preparation

 

As we began the refresh process, we promoted Daniel Camp, an experienced industry executive chef, as our Senior Director of Culinary. He had been a fantastic addition to the team and his Casual Dining background was perfect for the rigorous standards that we wanted to hold our menu to. We also have partnered with chefs outside of the company to get feedback, which was of great benefit.

 

Of course, when you add new items to a menu, you’re also going to need to reassess your current offerings and remove existing items that no longer fit. This part of the process wasn’t as difficult as I’d anticipated – a lot of the decisions to remove menu items were relatively easy because the items either didn’t live up to our standards, or simply weren’t selling. Once we assessed what we could take off, we were ready to get to work.

 

Led by our Brand Marketing team, we gathered feedback and insights from guests and operators to develop our plan and refine our culinary point of view. We created a filter by which every new item would be evaluated. The purpose of the filter is to ensure that every item we add properly embodies what On The Border stands for. From the bold spices to the smoky flavor of the mesquite grill, the items we put on our menu needed to fit into the “DNA” that we created when we first opened our doors. This DNA filter is what helps make every decision for us and keeps us authentic to our original brand of Tex-Mex flavors.

 

Chef Camp then came up with a multitude of new menu ideas inspired by this strategy, that were then analyzed to determine feasibility and executional ease for our operators. Once we had an idea of the dishes we wanted to add to the menu, we were able to start putting them to the test. 

 

Feedback

 

As we began to move towards the finish line, there were certainly some decisions – like adding different toppings to our Border Bowl and changing settings – that were easier than others. Finding the right taco meat, on the other hand, quite literally kept us up at night. Our top priority was keeping our loyal fans happy and we needed to ensure that any changes we made would guarantee their satisfaction. 

 

To ensure that was the case, when we were finally ready to roll out the new menu, we sent an email to our guests to see how they felt about the changes. Three days after sending the email, we had 4,000 responses in our President’s inbox. It took him days to read and respond to them all, but it was time well-spent because we needed to be sure that the new menu was the right move. After several days, we found that a majority of respondents were happy and open to the changing of the menu – a huge relief for all of us who worked on the menu revamp. We officially launched the new items in all stores in April 2021. Every time we have printed a new menu, since that date, we make edits and changes; we did not stop with day 1, it’s truly a journey to bold. We adjust and we improve as we listen to our guests.

 

The Follow-Up

 

While we’re extremely proud of the outcome of the revamp, there were a few external elements we didn’t factor into the process. We weren’t as concerned with making the new menu travel friendly for to-go. It might sound a little crazy to say so, especially given that off-premise dining has only grown in popularity in the past few years, but when we started the process we spent a lot of time considering what it’s like to eat it in our restaurants. The sizzling hot food, the fun atmosphere and everything else that goes on inside the doors of our restaurants is what makes On The Border, On The Border. Someone can only truly get that experience when they dine-in with us. Considerations of how to best get our food to travel came second, because On The Border is an experience, but we’ve worked to figure it out with the right packaging.

 

Another external challenge we couldn’t predict were the impending supply chain issues. If we had tried to launch this revamp today, our lives would be a lot tougher and more stressful because of supply chain issues. And unfortunately, there are some items that we developed during the revamp that we haven’t been able to officially put on the menu and start selling as a result. The upside is we still have more fresh, exciting food to unveil to our fans in the future.

 

And finally – as gas prices, groceries and everyday living costs soared, this also affected us. You can have a great new menu, but if people can’t afford it, they can’t come enjoy it. As such, we started to offer our new innovative items in value offers, promotions and bundles. Our new lunch offerings have become very popular, and our seasonal margaritas tasted even better, when offered at $5. As innovation and improvements continue, we will always stand for great quality food but always at great value.

 

All in all, we knew the journey would never be perfect, and that was not the goal. The goal of the revamp was to make sure that we’re continuing to serve food that matches the quality of our product from when we first opened. It’s about bettering the brand so that we can continue to grow with new restaurants and bring in new franchisees to the family. Despite the stress of the initiative, I thoroughly enjoyed the process – it also doesn’t hurt that I got to try all of the food and desserts. There’s no job I’d want to have more, and I’m extremely proud of the things we do every day at On The Border.

 

By the way, try the birria tacos – you can thank me later.

 

By Edithann Ramey, Chief Marketing Officer for On The Border