Struggling Chiquito wants its kitchens to cook dishes faster

Chiquito sign

Efforts are being made to broaden the appeal of Mexican chain Chiquito, including menu changes and revised pricing, after its owners admitted that its brand positioning in the market is “relatively weak”. 

The chain will also seek to make its dishes less complex in order to facilitate quicker throughput and improved consistency in its kitchens.

Parent company TRG pulled no punches in conceding that Chiquito had substantially underperformed the market, attributing the decline to poor menu changes, a lack of value competitiveness, speed of service issues and a softer market due to weaker cinema attendances.

“Compared to competitors, a narrow reach of potential customers are attracted to the brand,” it said. “Customer research indicates Mexican cuisine and particularly its association with spice, can alienate some potential customers. For the customers that do visit us, their frequency of visit is the lowest of our competitor set, due in part to our value positioning as well as a relatively high proportion of visits being oriented around infrequent, special occasions such as celebrations.”

TRG said it had taken learnings from recent menu trials to improve the offer, which has seen it introduce a weekday value menu offering two courses for £10.95 and three courses for £14.95. It claims early participation rates have been “encouraging”.

It will now push ahead with plans to broaden the appeal of the brand, including extending the cuisine to Texan and Californian influences, providing customers with the option for greater customisation, including of fillings and spice levels, and delivering better value through an improved price architecture.

It also vowed to make Chiquito’s menu easier to understand and navigate, and reduce unnecessary complexity of dishes. This, it says, will ensure its kitchen can get the product out faster and with improved consistency.

“We will roll out the changes in a sample of restaurants to learn and optimise before implementing more widely. Later in the year, once the changes are widespread, we will invest in marketing behind the rejuvenated proposition,” TRG said.

There are 79 Chiquito restaurants in the UK. Five sites were opened and 12 closed during the year.

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