Dan Barash Online

Moe’s Southwest Grill president on menu strategy
February 19, 2013, 9:28 pm
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Moe’s Southwest Grill president on menu strategy

Anita Jones-Mueller, M.P.H., president and founder of Healthy Dining, a nutrition-related marketing and consulting firm, interviews Paul Damico, president of Moe’s Southwest Grill, on the progress of the chain’s mission to improve the healthfulness of its food.

See Moe’s Southwest Grill’s Healthy Dining-approved menu choices on HealthyDiningFinder.com. This interview and others can be seen at Healthy Dining’s Restaurant Nutrition News & Insights.

Paul, I’m so impressed with Moe’s commitment to nutrition and wellness. I talked with your corporate chef, Dan Barash, about a year ago about your ‘Food Mission’ that had recently launched. Now that it has been a year or so, how has your commitment to nutrition and your ‘Food Mission’ evolved?

• Health experts share insights on healthy dining for kids
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Yes, Dan probably told you that about two and a half years ago, we started putting together a solid strategy for our menu and our ‘Food Mission.’ We served great food back then so we didn’t feel the need to reformulate or change our food, but we wanted to improve upon the quality of our ingredients. Since Moe’s always strives to give our customers the highest-quality service we wanted to begin incorporating the highest-quality ingredients, too, so that we were treating our food like we treat our customers.

That’s a great way to explain why you created your ‘Food Mission’ — so that it is in line with the way you treat your guests. Tell us more about that.

We are all about our food and all about our environment. We want to be known as over the top in health and taste with an acceptable price point.

Our guests are ‘sustainability champions,’ ‘conscientious parents,’ ‘calorie counters,’ ‘gluten evaders’ and vegetarians. And we want to meet and exceed their expectations for quality and taste.

Our menu touts ingredients that are free of rBGH, steroids, preservatives or MSG. It took us about a year to research and source all of those products, but it was worth the time. We also evaluated all of our marinades and sauces and cut the sodium quite a bit without compromising any of the taste. And all of this is happening 100 percent of the time at all of our locations.

That’s great. So how have your guests responded?

The numbers speak for themselves. Our traffic is up 4.5 percent, and that includes a lot of new guests. Our sales are up 9 percent. And we are opening up a new restaurant every five days.

Something we’re proud of is that we’re currently in 19 universities. College students love Moe’s ‘Food Mission.’ All that is due to the quality of our food.

We are now at 450 locations and growing.

Wow! So what’s next?

We have started using only cage-free, skinless, white meat chicken breast with no hormones added. Toward the end of this year we will be securing the whole breast of the chicken — cage free and hormone free — which is even more flavorful and juicy than what we are serving now. It has a really great appearance, too.

Recently we announced that our salsas are made from all-natural ingredients. We have always offered a variety of salsas, but now we also rotate in new freshly prepared seasonal salsas on a quarterly basis. Again, these will all be made with all-natural ingredients and will contain no preservatives. We see this as a massive differentiator for us.

We are also looking at organic juice boxes and all-natural cookies for kids, which parents will like too.

Contact Anita Jones-Mueller, M.P.H., at anita@healthydiningfinder.com.


Free Queso for All at Moe’s—On July 21
July 12, 2010, 2:48 pm
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2010-07-08]   Moe’s Southwest Grill is celebrating its 10th anniversary by giving each guest a free six-ounce cup of its Queso at all locations all day on July 21—no strings attached, no purchase necessary.

“This once-in-every-10-years offer will be the first and only nationwide giveaway since the company’s inception,” says Paul Damico, president of Moe’s Southwest Grill. “We are excited to share this company milestone with our guests by giving away one of our best-loved and most celebrated products.”

Additionally, Moe’s is encouraging fans to express themselves and their love for Moe’s hot, flavorful, melted white cheese sauce by entering the I Love Queso Video Contest at http://www.ilovequeso.com for a chance to win $1,000 and free Queso for a year.

Free queso isn’t the only reason to celebrate Moe’s 10th anniversary. Most recently, Moe’s opened its first green location in Burlington, Vermont; added Junior Burritos and Rice Bowls permanently to the menu; opened three cobranded locations with Carvel Ice Cream; launched a new website; and introduced a cleaner, brighter restaurant prototype. With plans to open 500 locations in the next five years, Moe’s is better poised for growth than ever before.

Moe’s Greets the New Year with New Site
January 11, 2010, 5:23 pm
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 Although Moe’s Southwest Grill has many new marketing efforts in store for 2010&including an upcoming promotion that has been teased about on its Facebook and Twitter pages—the first is a simple, but necessary, update of the brand’s Web site.

According to Joel Bulger, vice president of marketing for Moe’s, the Web site makeover was due not only for aesthetics, but also for brand transparency.

“We needed to update the Web site, but part of it is we needed to a better job of helping people understand the brand and making the brand more relevant,” Bulger says.

“Also, helping people to understand a lot of great things that we do, a lot of great parts of the brand that they just don’t know about.”

Some of the updates of the new Moe’s Web site include a more user-friendly location finder, an online game, a page that links to the brand’s YouTube channel, and a “Moe Cares” section that focuses on sustainability and community involvement efforts from Moe’s.

Another new feature is an interactive widget that highlights Moe’s menu ingredients and nutritional information.

“We posted our nutritional information long before it was mandated or long before we were asked to do that,” Bulger says. “It’s important for our guests, whether there’s allergens or nutritional information or caloric information or whatever the customer is looking for—just give it to them.”

Bulger says that while social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter have become trendier brand hubs than individual Web sites, the Moe’s Southwest Grill site is an important component that works hand-in-hand with those media.

“Facebook and Twitter are great sources of two-way communication and how to communicate with a guest in ways they want to be talked to right now,” he says. “But if somebody wants to find the restaurant near them or somebody wants to find nutritional information or somebody wants to find out the history of Moe’s or about some of our ingredients, Facebook and Twitter are not the kind of place for those things.

“When [customers] come into Facebook and Twitter, they want quick, relevant, timely information, but the Web site is a way to … find out more about the brand.”

Though Bulger emphasizes that the message of the new Web site was essential to promoting the brand’s burritos, quesadillas, tacos, and other menu options, the manner in which the message was shared needed to reflect the identity of the restaurant.

“It is a lot more engaging and a lot more interactive than it ever was,” he says. “We’re very lucky, because Moe’s is a very cool and interactive brand, and I think people like to engage with the brand.

“We just need to make sure that … we’re telling folks stuff that they want to hear.”

By Sam Oches