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    Q&A: How Lime Fresh Mexican Grill's CEO Keeps the Concept 'Hip'

     

    Q&A: How Lime Fresh Mexican Grill's CEO Keeps the Concept 'Hip' - Kandessa Media

    When Ruby Tuesday was getting ready to make its Lime Fresh Mexican Grill® master licensing announcement last September, Lime Fresh was a regional Mexican-style eatery with eight locations in Florida, known for its passion, cool brand and atmosphere, but with little notoriety. Now, the 200 locations that Ruby Tuesday will build over the next several years under the agreement will bring yet another strong competitor to the fast casual Mexican segment in Lime Fresh.

    The first Ruby Tuesday-partnered store, which will open in Huntsville, Ala. in October, will bring the total of Lime Fresh stores to 11.

    Here in this abstract** of our interview, the chain's Founder and Chief Executive, John Kunkel, shares how the brand is differentiated and how he keeps the brand hip and cool.

    Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the Lime Fresh concept. 

    Kunkel: Lime Fresh Mexican Grill began as a few pencil sketches and hand-scribed notes on my desk before we opened the doors in South Beach in 2004. My vision was to serve Mexican-style cuisine in a vivacious atmosphere that provided guests the best customer service around.

    We didn’t want Lime to be just another burrito joint. We wanted to ensure guests only the freshest Mexican food available. That’s why all of our produce is delivered daily from local markets. Our meats are charbroiled on grills in an exhibition-style kitchen, and guests have the option of making each meal low fat or low carb every time. 

    What has worked best in building excitement for the brand? 

    Kunkel: It’s all about the Lime experience. Our employees do an amazing job at relaying the energy and passion behind the Lime brand from the moment a customer walks in the door. We have a dedicated and zealous team here at Lime, and everyone works together. Ultimately, we have found that word of mouth after a great Lime experience is the most powerful vehicle for helping to build excitement for the brand. 

    The Lime Fresh Mexican Grill concept is very active on social media. How do you best determine the resources there, and how do you measure the ROI?

    Kunkel: The rise of social media has been a great means of better and deeper relationship building with our customers. These relationships are so important to the brand, and we truly value what each and every one of our fans has to say, whether positive or negative.

    We take every comment on Facebook and Twitter very seriously, and use any and all feedback constructively to help craft the Lime experience. Having that direct line of communication with your customers is the best ROI any brand could ask for. 

    How much does offering alcohol play into the atmosphere and concept of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill?

    Kunkel: Lime is a customizable dining experience. Whether you want to stop in and grab a quick lunch or enjoy a leisurely dinner with friends that also includes some cocktails, we pride ourselves on offering something for everyone. Our alcoholic beverage menu includes frozen margaritas and sangria, both made with Agave wine, as well as domestic and imported bottled beers.  

    You operate in a very competitive Mexican-style fast casual environment. Tell us about your vision for Lime Fresh in the next five years. How will you keep the brand, well, fresh?  

    Kunkel: The agreement with Ruby Tuesday is for 200 locations throughout the Eastern United States under a Master License Agreement. Lime Fresh continues expansion corporately throughout the state of Florida, the Western United States and internationally, and continues to control and direct the brand as a whole from the corporate office in Miami.

    Ruby Tuesday will open restaurants along the southeastern United States, while corporate locations will simultaneously expand. Lime maintains complete control of all decision-making, and directs Ruby Tuesday on how to run the brand. Seamless communication across all levels and locations has helped us be successful and stay true to our values throughout the rapid growth. 

    Lime has created a unique and innovative niche in the fast casual segment with our fusion of fast casual ordering combined with a full service dining experience. Because of our fast casual style ordering mixed with full-service dining, guests have the convenience of fast casual but with the comforts of full-service. The restaurant atmosphere is a factor in Lime having one of the largest dinner segments in the fast casual concept.  

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    ** The full version of the Q&A is available to our QSL.Insider members in next month's PDF newsletter. **

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    08-23-11

    Copyright: Kandessa Media. All rights reserved.

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    This story appears in:  Operations & People