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Modern Market Eatery Unveils New Prototype: A Deep Dive into Efficiency and Cost Savings

By focusing on technology-forward kitchen operations, modern dining room designs and streamlined pickup processes, Modern Market is setting new standards in the fast-casual dining industry.

Modern Market Eatery, a leader in the fast-casual dining industry, is making waves with its innovative new prototype, designed to enhance operational efficiency and reduce costs for franchisees. Here’s a deep dive into the new-and-improved Modern Market prototype. 

Cost-Efficient Construction

To start, one of the most significant advantages of the new prototype is its cost efficiency. Modern Market has implemented value engineering strategies to reduce construction and operational costs. 

“We’ve been able to value engineer the build-out with this new prototype — we’ve taken out a lot of additional costs without any impact on the guest experience or operations,” said Chris Cheek, chief development officer. “We’re talking about as much as 15% to 20% of the total build-out reduced. This is particularly noteworthy in an industry facing rising costs for construction and materials.”

And these value engineering strategies aren’t just conceptual — they’ve been tried and tested through the brand’s two most recent restaurant openings. This includes a new 2,400-square-foot franchise restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, opened by Thrive Restaurant Group, as well as its newest corporate restaurant in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This restaurant offers the first drive-thru design for Modern Market.

“We've worked together with our franchise partners in Kansas City to identify best practices and minimize building costs,” said David Medley, director of construction and facilities for Modern Market. “We are constantly challenging our suppliers and manufacturing representatives to lower prices, for example. This is an ongoing and collective effort, but we've already achieved a reduction in our equipment package costs by as much as 10% through price comparisons and alternative equipment selections that do not compromise our culinary standards.”

Although each restaurant is different, Medley says the team has been able to reduce its millwork package costs by about 35% through these efforts without compromising the look or quality of the restaurants.

From a kitchen perspective, Modern Market's new prototype maintains the brand's commitment to technology and efficiency. Another significant update is the introduction of a smaller pizza oven that occupies just one-fifth of the space of its predecessor, for example. Additionally, the new design eliminates the need for a hood system, bringing substantial cost savings. 

“We have always been very tech-forward because the founders were very thoughtful early on,” said Cheek. “Our operations have always allowed us to deliver scratch, fast-casual food as fast as anyone in the business.” 

Modern, Inviting Dining Rooms

The new prototype features a more modern and inviting dining room design as well, aimed at encouraging customers to linger longer, especially during the dinner daypart. 

“The new prototype is designed to make our restaurants more modern,” said Cheek. “In the dining room, there is softer, warmer and more inviting decor and lighting. People will linger a little longer to drive more revenue to the dinner daypart. This shift from the previous dark wood, industrial look to a warmer ambiance with lighter colors and softer textures is a significant change since the last prototype update in 2009.”

Modern Market is also setting benchmarks in energy efficiency and operational convenience. “We've focused on electrical improvements, integrating the latest LED lighting controls and systems that automatically adjust based on external light conditions,” Medley said. “These advancements not only lead to significant energy savings but also enhance operational aesthetics, removing the need for manual control adjustments by general managers or operators. This gives us an added operational advantage.”

Adapting to Third-Party Delivery

Size also plays a pivotal role in Modern Market Eatery's new prototype strategy, with restaurants thriving in spaces as small as 2,000 square feet. By prioritizing scratch cooking in relatively compact spaces, Modern Market has masterfully balanced efficiency with culinary excellence.

“Modern Market really proves that larger sales do not always require bigger spaces,” Medley said. “We are optimizing smaller spaces to achieve greater efficiency and customer satisfaction, which simultaneously reduces initial buildout costs.”

And now, with the rise in third-party delivery services, Modern Market has also adapted its front counter design to streamline the pickup process for delivery drivers and customers ordering through the app. This includes the integration of designated pickup zones for order-ahead and delivery services, streamlining operations and maintaining a clutter-free dining and cash register area. 

“Currently, 65% of Modern Market's business is off-premise,” Cheek said. “Given that we require smaller real estate than many in the category, every bit of space is important. The new prototype includes clear, designated areas for pickup orders, reducing congestion at the front POS and enhancing the overall customer experience.”

Looking Ahead

Overall, Modern Market has already tested the new prototype in two restaurants built in 2023 and remodeled 17 older restaurants in Colorado. The most recent build included a drive-thru in Colorado Springs late last year, another major milestone for the brand.

Today, Modern Market Eatery has grown to over 31 restaurants around the country. With its focus on innovation, cost efficiency and collaborative partnerships, Modern Market offers a compelling opportunity for entrepreneurs. The 21 company-owned Modern Market restaurants open for the calendar year of 2023 saw an impressive AUV of $2.3 million, according to the brand’s most recent franchise disclosure document, with the initial investment range between $728,500 and $1,468,750.

“At the end of the day, Modern Market Eatery has navigated through periods of significant change, innovation and challenge, but that's only made us stronger,” said Modern Market co-founder Rob McColgan. “We are always finding new ways to refine our model and expand our concept, staying true to our core ethos of providing healthy, sustainable and delicious food options. We are very excited to see what the future holds.”

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