What is in this article?:
- Max Brenner moves toward fast-casual format
- Consumers come for the chocolate
The chocolate-centric chain is refocusing to better meet its American consumers’ needs.
Max Brenner Chocolate Bar & Restaurant is moving from a full-service model it operates in the United States and Israel to a fast-casual format focusing on desserts.
The New York City-based chain began in 1999 in Australia with a dessert-focused, limited-service format similar to the one it is returning to.
“The restaurants were brand extensions” of the original Max Brenner Chocolate Bar, chief executive Sam Borgese said.
There are a total of eight full-service restaurants — five in Israel and one each in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia — and 44 Chocolate Bars in Australia, Japan, Singapore and Russia.
The chain added savory items to the menu when it expanded to Israel, in an attempt to occupy more dayparts. When Borgese, a former executive chairman of El Pollo Loco, joined Chocolate Bar two years ago, he suggested they “pivot away from the savory side and concentrate on the original model.”
Borgese said he thought the fast-casual model better suited American consumers’ needs. Additionally, the unit economics of the Chocolate Bars are “more robust,” he said. Ninety percent of its customers visit the restaurant for chocolate.
“We don’t get written up for having the best roast beef in town,” Borgese said.
The chain is known for its fondue and hot chocolate. Other popular items include chocolate pizza and a chocolate syringe — melted ganache in a large syringe that guests can squirt onto other foods, such as waffles or crêpes, or directly into their mouths.
The Chocolate Bar also offers peanut butter and chocolate granitas and a line of cold beverages called Choctails that come in flavors such as salted caramel, chocolate and hazelnut. A green tea and white chocolate Choctail is currently in the works, Borgese said. Hot and cold coffee drinks, pastries and desserts also are available.