What is in this article?:
- Le Duff America bullish on Mimi's Café turnaround
- Analysts weigh in on the deal
An executive says the company will pursue a "focused, methodical turnaround" once the purchase of café chain is complete.
Le Duff America Inc. intends to bring back some joie de vivre in the struggling Mimi’s Café when it completes the estimated $50 million purchase of the casual-dining brand in the next two months, a company executive says.
Columbus, Ohio-based Bob Evans Farms Inc. said Monday that it had agreed to sell the 145-unit Mimi’s Café to Dallas-based Le Duff America in a deal including $20 million in cash and $30 million in a note. The sale is expected to be completed in 45 days.
“We’re obviously going to take a close look at every aspect of the business,” said Phil Costner, chief brand strategy officer for Le Duff America, in an interview Wednesday. “We’re not going to re-invent Mimi’s. Mimi’s has a really long and rich heritage. They have a really strong DNA in that brand. It’s really about making the brand relevant again to the audience.”
The 34-year-old Mimi’s Café, which serves three dayparts, has seen its clientele grow older. “It’s no secret that Mimi’s as a brand has seen better days,” Costner said. “The last years have been very, very tough on the brand from a sales and traffic perspective. LDA takes a long-term vision for all the brands under the umbrella. We see this as a very focused and very methodical turnaround.”
In 2010 Mimi's introduced bars in units and tested an express option in Chandler, Ariz., to help stem sales and traffic slippage. Chandler noted that the bar aspect of the concept will be evaluated over the next 12 to 20 months. “There is no vision to turn it into a sports bar or the traditional casual-dining bar,” he said. “But the ambience is perfect to enjoying a cocktail or a wine with your meal.”
He added that Le Duff, which intends to keep Mimi’s operational headquarters in Irvine, Calif., plans to reinvigorate the menu and study recent initiatives, such as a prototype redesign that opened in Valencia, Calif., in October.
“It’s a very updated version of Mimi’s,” he said. “They’ve added a very prominent bakery component to the brand. The bar has been redesigned and reshaped. There’s a garden area that is very, very nice. There’s a wine room. They’ve done a great job from a design perspective. They’ve taken this 30-plus-year grande dame of a brand and began to make it much more relative to a broader audience.”
Le Duff will focus on the brand’s French heritage, especially in the menu, Costner said. “It’s safe to say the menu has become pretty large over the past several years, both in large number of items as well as scope and breadth,” he said. “There are Asian influences on that menu and from all over the world.”
However, Costner said Le Duff is cautiously approach menu changes so as to “not get into that race to be everything to everybody.”