Tasty Re-Made With Top Chef Richard Blais

Tasty Re-Made With Top Chef Richard Blais

Tasty Re-Made With Top Chef Richard Blais 1440 960 Chute Gerdeman

While a slew of fast casual and QSR brands have been busy creating the next Chipotle, it seems as though the build-your-own burrito brand hasn’t been able to replicate their own recipe for success. Amid issues of food safety and sales declines, Chipotle has been actively exploring strategic alternatives including ShopHouse Kitchen serving an Asian-inspired cuisine, and a better burger venture called Tasty Made. The brand has since ditched the ShopHouse chain due to an unattractive economic model, and Tasty Made met underwhelming customer reviews upon initial launch. Even as founder Steve Ells steps down as CEO though, Chipotle says its not calling it quits on its better burger concept.

With just a little over a year since first breaking ground, Chipotle decided it was time to refocus rather than fizzle. Dealing perceptions of a mediocre and overpriced menu, and even rumors the brand abandoned their original mission to provide hormone- and antibiotic-free patties in favor of cheaper conventional beef, Chipotle decided to bring in the big guns. To bring a fresh eye and entrepreneurial expertise to the experience, Chipotle hired James Beard-nominated cookbook author and celebrity chef Richard Blais well known for his two-time “Top Chef” alum status. In 2008, Blais launched Atlanta-based burger chain, Flip Burger Boutique, and has since developed refined food concept Juniper & Ivy and the popular new chicken concept, Crack Shack.

“Steve and Chipotle have had such a significant impact on reinventing fast food. There is no more iconic fast food than burgers, and I have always thought that there is a way to do them on a really big scale without compromising the quality of the food or the overall restaurant experience. Joining forces with Chipotle and Tasty Made is a truly unique opportunity to do that,” said Blais in a press release. In December the brand made a public announcement touting the recent revamp of Tasty Made.

As a critical element of the partnership, Blais focused his culinary craft on the menu. Much like the old one, the new menu still focuses on the four core items: burgers, shakes, sodas, and fries, with some modifications, and apparently bigger is better. Blais beefed things up a bit with a new burger feature, “The Mighty Made” stacked with 3 beef patties, 2 slices of cheese, 2 slices of bacon, grilled onions, pickles and a new Tasty Made burger sauce. For an additional $1.50 customers can also now “stack it up” by adding more patties to their burger, and the twice-cooked hand cut fries can be made “extra tasty” with the brand’s signature burger sauce, grilled onions and melted cheese. Adding some complimentary condiments, a fry bar station now features custom sauces of Buttermilk Ranch, Curry Mustard, Smoked Barbecue and the Tasty Made Burger Sauce (replacing the previous “Bacon Sauce). A new seasonal milkshake, currently Black Forest Cake, rounds out the relatively simple menu.

Tasty Made Interior
Tasty Made Interior

Given the high profile hype of the makeover it begged the question, “How was the experience enhanced beyond the menu?” Just a short drive south of Columbus we headed back to see firsthand. Upon arrival the space felt familiar to its original 1950’s retro design of mostly red and white.

Tasty Made
Tasty Made Fry Bar

The once insignificant menu board seemed to have a larger presence, and the single cashier pod stations have now been replaced with a more substantial counter giving less of an undesirable view of the back of house. A single walkway between the counters now served an actual purpose for table service during slower dayparts. A new digital display showcased your order status and length of food preparation time. A new fry bar station now gives customers the freedom to sample all the custom sauces.

Tasty Made
Tasty Made Combo

Nostalgic 1950’s style burger uniforms and pointed paper hats were replaced with ball caps and t-shirts for a more casual appeal. New, bold wall graphics with sayings like “Fries the Limit” and “Burgers and Chill” gave a fun, youthful vibe that was once missing, while jazzy tunes like Patti Drew’s “Hard to Handle” heard over the sound system reminded you of an old-school attitude.

From the menu modifications to the restaurant design, the changes were subtle. Described as a “work in progress,” it may not be all Tasty Made needs to shift perceptions in the right direction. Our guess is they’re still working out the kinks before moving on. A second location was originally slated for February 2017, but has since been converted to a Chipotle after a long period of paused construction.

Photo Credit: Tasty Made | Restaurant Business | Chute Gerdeman

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