Mad Greens will open Thursday a new prototype restaurant that will set the stage for an acceleration of growth.

The new prototype in Centennial, Colo., is the healthful fast-casual chain’s 13th location. All of Mad Greens’ restaurants are in Colorado, but the concept is ready to expand elsewhere in the Southwest this year. Marley Hodgson, co-founder and chief strategy officer, said he could not yet reveal the precise locations.

The Centennial restaurant is among three Mad Greens units expected to open in 2014. Next year, the chain will ramp up growth, with seven to 10 new openings, including more outside Colorado, Hodgson said. The chain aims to reach 50 locations within the next four to five years.

The expansion will be fueled by an investment made late last year by the family behind the Coors brewery. With the recently launched AC Restaurant Group, the family took a majority stake in Mad Greens, keeping co-founders Hodgson and Dan Long at the helm and as minority shareholders.

Hodgson said the redesign was already in the works last year when the investment opportunity arose.

The goal was to refresh of the concept’s overall look, as well as to emphasize core brand values, including Mad Greens’ use of local, organic and seasonal ingredients.

“One of the major components we wanted to highlight was to make sure customers had a little more connection to the fact that we are heavily locally sourced and that we put a lot of care and time into sourcing,” Hodgson said.

The new prototype also tweaks operations to improve the flow of customers through the restaurant as they build their meal of salads, wraps, soups and panini.

The restaurant features digital menu boards, an aspect of the new look that has also spread to all existing locations. The move allows for flexibility with menu changes, promotions, to keep up with the seasonal aspect of ingredients, and sometimes shift in pricing.

The prototype also features a new point-of-sale system that Hodgson said will improve the flow.

Expediters will take orders using a touchscreen tablet at the counter, then guests will walk the line to customize their selections. At the end, a cashier only needs to note add-ons or changes and take payments.

The system is designed for the addition of mobile or online ordering, which the chain expects to add later this year. In some high-volume locations in the future, Mad Greens may also set up tablets for guests to place their order directly.

“It leaves open those options,” Hodgson said.

Other changes are subtler. For example, the new design takes the panini presses off the line and into the kitchen, where a dedicated sandwich maker can speed the process.

Lettuces are displayed in vertical coolers to spotlight the beauty, variety and freshness of the produce and better utilize space.

“People eat with their eyes,” Hodgson said. “Young people, in particular, are very visual.”

Though Mad Greens locations are typically 1,800 to 2,200 square feet, the new prototype, at 2,376 square feet and 77 seats, including a patio, pushes the size as the concept prepares for more suburban locations that may require more dine-in seating.

“In certain environments, we may be willing to go up to 2,300 to 2,500 square feet,” Hodgson said. “In Colorado, our dine-in-to- take-out ratio is pretty much 50–50, but I don’t know if that will be the same in all markets going forward.”

Mad Greens’ redesign was done in partnership with Xan Creative, a Denver-based design firm.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout