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Though it’s in its infancy as a nationally recognized food franchise, Mama Fu’s Asian House could be poised to become the mother of all Asian fast-casual restaurants, based on recent trends and company initiatives that have resulted in significant growth of the Austin, Texas-based chain. Mama Fu’s is expanding its presence in the fast-casual industry with a business model it has trademarked called “flex-casual,” said President and CEO Randy Murphy in an interview with Franchise Chatter.
The innovative flex-casual concept means customers who come to Mama Fu’s during the day for lunch will find a quick and easy system that allows them to order at a counter and have their made-to-order food delivered to a table for dining in, or as a take-out order, in six to seven minutes. It’s a typical service mode for restaurants trying to accommodate workers and other customers who might have limited time at lunch and want service in a hurry.
At night, however, customers are greeted by a host or hostess at Mama Fu’s and introduced to the menu by a server who will take their order and provide the same level of service patrons might find at a conventional, high-end, sit-down restaurant.
“It really is giving your customer base the service they need and want at the time of day they want it,” Murphy said. “We knew it had great potential.”
‘Flex-Casual’ Concept Adds to Bottom Line
The concept also helps with the company’s bottom line by causing a shift in the traditional 60-40 percentage split between lunch and dinner to a more desirable 45 percent lunch traffic and 55 percent dinner, said Murphy, 41, who graduated from University of Texas in 1993 with a degree in economics. By attracting more customers at dinner, the restaurants are able to ratchet up overall ticket totals by offering a complete dining experience from cocktails and appetizers to entrees and desserts.
The flex-casual concept also called for revamping interior spaces to make Mama Fu’s more inviting for a sit-down dinner at night. Three restaurants underwent renovations this year and all new outlets will adopt Mama Fu’s new prototype features.
“The new interior design adds more organic, natural looking materials and a warmer color palette that presents a more contemporary look and feel to the guest experience,” company marketing material states. “Among the signature elements is a dramatic black river rock feature wall that reinforces Mama Fu’s Asian heritage.”
The new exterior design features a variety of dress enhancements including a trestle-style background to accentuate the brand’s signage, a distinctive entranceway, Asian-inspired lighting, signature awnings, window graphics that provide stronger branding, and black bamboo planters.
The new prototype also reduces the typical restaurant’s size from 3,000 to 2,500 square feet in an effort to meet the increased system-wide growth of off-premise sales, comprised of take-out, delivery, and catering. As a result, shrinking the footprint has helped reduce building costs by more than 10 percent, cutting initial investment outlays for franchisees.