Cheddar’s Casual Café is upping its game in looks and menu in a brand refresh that started late last year.

The 34-year-old Irving, Texas-based casual-dining chain has reimaged eight restaurants in Texas and plans to extend the program to six more restaurants in Missouri, Texas and Virginia later this year.

Cheddar’s Casual Café Inc. chief brand officer Tom Koenigsberg said the updates include new copper awnings and exterior signage, new upholstery and seating, granite bars, butcher-block tabletops, new lighting and stacked-stone interior walls.

“Guests have provided overwhelmingly positive feedback in the restaurants that have been re-imaged,” he said. “They comment that the restaurant feels and looks more contemporary.”

Innovations in the fast-casual segment have influenced the changes Cheddar’s and other casual-dining concepts have made, noted Cheddar’s regional vice president for operations Shannon McNiel. “I think it's fair to say that the casual-dining space has changed in recent years through the recession, with a lot more competition with quick casual really upping their game,” she said.

A unit in Irving, Texas, sports the lighter more contemporary look.
Executive chef Robert Pesch, who previously worked with upscale-casual brands, developed a new menu that rolled out in May. It features five items under 575 calories, including a popular Grilled Baja Chicken served on homemade black beans and rice and topped with pico de gallo, at 490 calories.

The menu also includes a broader selection of sides, including edamame, and smaller desserts for 99 cents.

Cheddar’s is sponsoring Meet the Chef events with Pesch to introduce the new menu changes at each re-imaged unit. “Guests are able to view the upgrades and also sample new menu items,” Koenigsberg said of the events.

The gatherings also allow guests to learn about the research and development process and the new items from the chef himself, he added.

The events also let the restaurants show off new design elements, Koenigsberg  said. Cheddar’s units are typically 8,000 square feet and seat 288 guests.

Cheddar’s has 141 company-owned and franchised locations in 25 states.

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