In Focus
FAST CASUAL | Staff Reporter, Australia

Zeus Street Greek sparks its latest menu refresh by returning to its Mediterranean heritage

The fast casual restaurant chain is also eyeing to have 30 stores by FY 2020.

Since its humble origins in Sydney, Zeus Street Greek has always been known for their modern twists on traditional food.

Continued experimentation with new flavours has always been the norm for the fast casual chain. But in their latest summer menu, they found a new space in menu innovation by going back to basics and returning to their core heritage.

“It is very normal for a business to look outside of its initial offer along the way, questioning itself, looking to the market to provide a voice about context and direction. Some of that direction has been great, some of that has not been so great,” Ramon Castillo, general manager of Zeus Street Greek exclusively told QSR Media. “The process of growing the business and appealing to a very broad Australian palate have moved away at the moment from the Greek traditional offer.”

Their summer menu, geared to reemphasize Zeus’s take on quality Greek food, was spearheaded by Universal Hotel Group executive chef David Tsirekas. It consists of three new pitas: the ocean-inspired Kalimera pita, filled with traditional Greek calamari, garlic aioli, fresh cos lettuce and tomato with a squeeze of lemon; the Apollo, which features flavours from northern Greece such as pork cooked over searing hot coals, tangy pickled cucumber, fresh tomato, baby cos lettuce and house-made mustard mayo; and the vegan-friendly Cousin Nikki, with lightly fried Zucchini falafel, roasted red peppers, fresh baby cos lettuce, tomato and finished with eggplant dip.

Also available are three new salads: the crisp and light Lettuce Dill Salad; the Zeus Slaw, made with grated haloumi, crunchy corn and mixed through with currants, fresh cabbage and garlic aioli; and the classic Greek Potato Salad.

A fresh message to consumers
“There are many factors that drove the menu refresh. One, coming into summer and coming out of winter, there was great opportunity to re-engage and deliver a fresh message to our consumers,” he explained.

As it moves forward from its now twenty locations across Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, Zeus wanted to seize the opportunity to ensure the soundness of the value proposition that sits within the brand: its Mediterranean background.

The summer menu gave Zeus a fresh start on its menu development, allowing them to remove products that feel out of place within the brand, and bringing back others that have dropped off the menu. This also gave them the chance to work on their second priority, to provide a more consistent offer across its network.

“It was a great opportunity to really clarify existing products. As we’ve grown the system in the process, we’ve upgraded a number of our training modules that have strengthened the team’s ability to create existing products consistently across the country,” Castillo said.

“And as we’re getting some feedback around variation and inconsistencies on the product, we took that feedback very seriously, and used this opportunity to re-engage our teams through our internal training programs and through the material we’ve created to strengthen the creation of existing products as well as launch new products.”

The results so far have been encouraging. Castillo said that the brand has seen positive uptakes on the new products, as well as an increase in dine-in customers, a welcome development given the growing appeal of food delivery platforms like UberEATS and Deliveroo.

“We’ve looked at the first week’s results and we’ve seen some fantastic uptake on new products. We’ve had a significant increase in some of the sharing plates which means that we’re attracting consumers back to coming in the store,” he said.

“The best of ours is yours”
In returning to its heritage, Zeus has rediscovered and strengthened its identity as a brand that celebrated “all things wonderful connected to Greece and the Mediterranean”.

“That is really a very important achievement that I think has been played out really well through the execution of the summer menu that we’ve created,” he said. “I think one of the main connection points that we’ve been working at crystallizing for our group as a whole is the message of Mediterranean hospitality. The best of ours is yours. Sharing that with our consumers is something that our teams have needed a little more guidance on.”

In the development of the summer menu, Zeus has laid out a number of initiatives that seek to strengthen the brand’s in-store experience, collaborating with its franchise partners to create natural and more meaningful moments to address different consumer needs as well as showcasing the warmth and hospitality that comes across in Mediterranean dining.

“We’ve been quite collaborative. I think there is a tremendous amount of trepidation that can be caused across operation teams franchise partners when you mention the words menu change. Change can cause people to react in lots of funky ways,” Castillo said. “I joined the business months ago and there have been plans to upgrade the menu in 2019, I brought that forward, made that a core priority. It was a 16 week process to develop the menu.”

Much of that time Castillo spent ensuring that it was a holistic collaboration between all the key stakeholders for the brand, from operations training, marketing, procurement, supply chain, all the way up to executive chef Tsirekas.

“So there were several menu tastings, several discussions and workshops, to really identify what we really want to introduce, what wasn’t working, and what had great potential but wasn’t executed well. It’s a very thorough process,” Castillo said.

Zeus aims to bring the same kind of management and coordination in its expansion across Australia. Announcing its intent to grow from its current network of 20 restaurants to 30 by 2020, the brand expects to build on the foundations it has built in the past four years and bring a warmer, more consistent Mediterranean dining experience all across Australia.

“For us, as a young brand we’re taking the lessons of our first chapter, which is four and a half years, and applying that over the next 18 months,” Castillo said. “Ten stores over 18 months is not something you pat yourself on the back over, but it’s not about numbers. It’s about quality, it’s about the right location, the right franchise partners and it’s about the right systems and processes that ultimately enable everybody to succeed.”

Photo credit: Zeus Street Greek Facebook

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