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bd’s Mongolian Grill President Joe Phraner says the biggest challenge the longstanding chain has is educating consumers about what Mongolian grill is. Probably better known as Mongolian barbecue, the stir-fried dish was developed in Taiwanese restaurants decades ago. While not technically Mongolian cuisine and not at all related to barbecue as Americans know it, the stir frying of meats on a large, open surface is supposed to evoke Mongolian foods and traditions.
But instead of giving customers that long explanation, the franchise is inviting them to come in and find out what Mongolian grill is for themselves. It has launched a new branding campaign centered around a tagline: “Go a Little Mongo.” bd’s Mongolian Grill’s create-your-own stir-fry concept will still be emphasized with additional menu items; a new, modernized menu design; and a rebranded and refreshed website, www.GoMongo.com.
“About a year ago, when we first started, we met with the franchise advisory council and talked about who we are, what we want to be, and what we are becoming. We refocused efforts on being the best stir-fry company in the country.”
“Go a Little Mongo: that’s who we are. We call our food ‘mongos’ and it just fit where we thought the brand should go in the next few years. We should hone in on being the best stir-fry in America.”
New Corporate Leadership
Following an ancient Mongolian tradition of “hunt, gather, cook, feast,” bd’s Mongolian Grill provides guests with the experience of creating their own “feast” from a variety of meats and seafood, fresh vegetables, and sauces before watching it being cooked by a master before their eyes on a large, flat grill.
Phraner, 59, took over as president of bd’s Mongolian Grill in January 2012, having worked for the brand for seven years. He has previous experience with restaurant franchises such as Friendly’s Ice Cream and Shoney’s and has been in the business for 42 years.
First opened in 1992 in Royal Oak, Mich., bd’s has been operating under a fast-casual concept since long before the term was coined, Phraner said. Today fast-casual is one of the industry’s strongest and fastest-growing segments, responsible for $18.9 billion in sales in 2010, according to Technomic research group.
Technomic has also reported that while Asian concepts still occupy a relatively small share of the Top 500 restaurant chains in the United States, the Asian category is among the strongest in the food sector with a growing demand from consumers and a great opportunity for chain operators to grow their market share.