Foodservice Equipment Reports

DESIGN: Mooyah Ups Its Game

Five hours into its launch, the Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes redesign prototype restaurant in Lombard, Ill., is in full swing. Guests earn enthusiastic welcomes as they enter. A line of Mooyah associates-in-training sport bright red Mooyah baseball caps as they learn the ropes at the various stations behind the counter. Mooyah managers and trainers watch and guide trainees as the burgers, fries and shakes orders make their way down the line. Cross Valley Farms potato boxes stacked by the door add to the “fresh foods” feel. 

Mooyah, the sit-down burger joint, serves build-your-own burgers with fresh beef, buns baked on-site and customizable shakes. Its Lombard restaurant, opened June 9, marks Mooyah’s second Illinois store, its third redesigned prototype location, and represents the beginning of major expansion for the Plano, Texas, better-burger chain. Now operating 68 restaurants in 12 states, Mooyah expects to open a total of 20 units this year in the new design, plus six internationally. Typical Mooyah locations logged average unit volumes ranging from $733,000 per year up to $1.2 million in 2013.

Metrics at Mooyah’s prototype locations reveal a 20% increase in burger-cooking speed, 10% increase in fries production speed and 15% longer oil life in the fryers, along with the overall ability to serve up to 20% more guests per hour than in existing Mooyah restaurants. 

“The new line is speedier, better organized and easier to work,” says Michael Mabry, Mooyah operations and franchise development v.p. and former Mooyah franchisee. “It’s quieter, too, which helps communication between team members since we don’t start cooking the burgers or fries until the order gets placed.”

One Prototype, Coming Right Up 

In January 2014, prototype design kicked into high gear to accommodate Mooyah’s expansion plans. Design moo-vers and shakers include Mabry and Doug Galloway, president of Dallas-based design firm Grand Select, along with hands-on feedback from franchisees Anthony D’Amore (Garwood, N.J.), Chuck Kerr (Baton Rouge, La.) and Barry Newberg (Plano, Texas).

The team had two goals as they worked on improving Mooyah operations: specifying the best possible equipment and positioning it more efficiently. 

New equipment choices for all areas of the kitchen were made with guidance from Mooyah’s dealer and backed by field research. “I went to our equipment supplier Texas Metal Equipment Co., Dallas, and asked owner Bill Carter, ‘If I wanted to open a French-fry restaurant, what fryers should I buy?’” Mabry explains. “I listened to his answers and then bought the fryers he recommended. We went down the line on all the major pieces. That’s how we upgraded our equipment lineup.”

As for the higher upfront investment required by top-of-the-line equipment, “Our franchisees have been okay with the change because of two things: The product quality is better and the ROI is there,” Mabry says. “With our 10-year agreement, when you factor in the price difference of the more efficient equipment, which is nominal, and load that into your build-out costs, you’ll be saving money on efficiencies and energy over the life of the business.” 

The second goal was to tweak the cookline’s burgers, fries and shakes stations so associates can better stay in one spot to do all of their tasks. “I see the cookline as a basketball court,” Mabry says. “Associates can move one foot all they want, but if they have to move the other foot, that’s too much.”

Upping the efficiency quotient gives Mooyah associates more time to spend in the dining room interacting with guests. To that end, designers added a second access point between the cookline and dining area with a swinging half-door between the POS counter and makeline. 

The resulting design covers 1,800-2,200 sq. ft. with seating for 50-75 people.

Better Burgers And Buns 

First up, burgers. Along the back wall, Mabry points out the Duke three-tray bread oven mounted above a six-tray Duke proofer. “As buns come out of the oven, they’ll be placed in the rolling rack to the left of the oven—away from the cooking battery—to cool. As buns are needed, we’ll shift trays to the rack on the right of the oven, where they’ll be sliced in an automatic Oliver bun slicer.” In earlier designs, the holding rack for just-baked buns had been positioned back in the prep area.

Immediately next to the bun slicer, a 2-ft.-wide Wolf griddle is dedicated to toasting buns and cooking veggie burgers. To the right of the bun griddle sits a 4-ft.-wide, fast-recovery Vulcan griddle, a foot smaller in width than griddles at older Mooyah stores. The griddle speeds production and saves on hood requirements. 

“The high-efficiency griddles and fryers make timing more accurate and product more consistent than the previous equipment did,” adds Mooyah Senior Training Specialist Jeff Rawe.

The design team kept every detail of product flow in mind—even trash-can placement. “As team members work the burgers, they have to toss out the papers separating patties,” Mabry explains. “Since product flows from left to right, we made sure to position the trash can on the right side of the grill.” 

The cutting board running the length of the burger make-and-finish line was widened to accommodate two build trays rather than the single tray of earlier models. “Now we can assemble four orders at a time,” Mabry points out. “At the sell point [a 5-ft.-long butcher-block table at the end of the line where finished orders are delivered], we simply hand the trays to the guest.”

The sell table, too, was purposefully oversized to prevent trays from stacking up when large parties arrive. 

Fries On Demand 

At the fry station, Mooyah planners chose Dean high-heat fryers equipped with electronic timers to ensure product consistency.

“On these units, oil is heated from both the bottom and sides, so recovery time is fast,” Mabry explains. At Mooyah, fries—twice-rinsed Idaho potatoes hand-cut in the back of the house—are par-fried and hit the fryers for the final cook only when ordered. Cook times average about four minutes or less. 

Mooyah also offers sweet-potato fries, which require an extra piece of equipment. After guests voted 100% in favor of the delicate crunch of an outsourced frozen product over the housemade version, store planners added a dedicated reach-in Delfield freezer to the prep-area layout. Freezer drawers next to the fryers hold product during service times.

The fryers feature built-in filtration that saves time and labor, not to mention extending oil life. “We used to filter oil through a portable filter cart we called R2-D2,” Rawe notes. “It was messy, and sometimes team members would end up covered in oil. The new system is all self contained in the fryer, and it’s automatic. We just push a button, and the fryer handles the rest.” 

Shake, Shake, Shake 

The prototype’s shake station consolidates the syrups, cups, mix-ins, shake machines and ice-cream freezer into one compact area. Supplies sit on a dedicated worktable at the end of the cookline next to the fryer station. (In older stores, the blenders sit on one counter and syrups, etc., on another.)

“Now, the shake person can receive orders and make them without moving around to collect ingredients,” Mabry notes. “During slower times, a single person can man both the fryer station and shake station. In busy times, one person works each station, with no crossover.” 

Work It, Team Mooyah 

Mooyah’s new prototype has the built-in flexibility to run with as few as three team members on the cookline during slow times to as many as nine overall during peak times.

Cross-training team members is a cornerstone of Mooyah philosophy. “Fun is a big part of what Mooyah’s all about,” Mabry says. “We try to make it fun for the staff, too. The job [of making burgers, fries and shakes] is easy to learn but hard to replicate day in and day out. This new design makes it easier to cross-train; associates learn the ropes for three or four stations, so every day is different than the one before.” 

The prototype’s added efficiencies give staff more time to interact with guests. “From the ‘Welcome to Mooyah!’ when customers arrive to the ‘Thanks, come again!’ as they’re leaving, Mooyah associates now have more time to work the dining room,” Mabry says.

MENU/SEGMENT: Fast-casual gourmet burgers
SIZE: 1,800-2,200 sq. ft.
SEATING: 50-75 seats
FF&E PACKAGE: $150,000
UNITS: 68 restaurants in 12 states and four international markets
2014 PLANS: 20 U.S. openings and six international openings
ARCHITECT: Doug Galloway, president, Grand Select LLC, Dallas
DEALER: Bill Carter, Texas Metal Equipment Co., Dallas

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