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Major changes coming to Mimi’s

Restaurant undergoes reimaging with Valencia location as test market to offer guests more dining opt

Posted: October 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.

The renovated facade of Mimi's in Valencia. The restaurant will reopen on Friday with a Parisian dining theme.

 

A second French revolution is coming, but the arena for this upheaval is Mimi’s restaurant as it aims to offer diners many European dining experiences under one roof.

Of the 145 restaurants in the chain, spread out over 24 states, the local restaurant is the first to get a complete overhaul because the company’s President and Chief Concept Officer, Mark Mears, lives in Valencia.

The grand opening for the Mimi’s Valencia location is Friday.

No longer Mimi’s Cafe, and now just Mimi’s, the restaurant is undergoing a comprehensive branding and reimaging program, Mears said.

Themed dining

Mimi’s is introducing six themed dining experiences, allowing guests to have more options. Like a bride wearing something new, borrowed and old — diners will still have access to some of their favorite menu items and full service meals, while new dining options and menu items are added.

The new Mimi’s offers its standard cafe area, as well as an indoor garden area, a French bakery and gourmet coffee bar, a full service bar, a French-inspired neighborhood bistro and a winery room, Mears said.

“Guests want an adventure,” Mears said. “They want a taste of France without ever leaving the neighborhood. We’re keeping the traditional Mimi’s classics and adding more French inspired classics, creating a safe French adventure.”

Diners seeking a more intimate experience will find darker woods, curved booths and warm lighting in the bistro area. Or, they can enjoy a more club-like atmosphere in the wine room, with brick walls and wine casks on the room resembling a French Country chateau, he said.

For more casual diners, this Mimi’s location is now offering Wi-Fi so patrons can sit down with coffee and a croissant and work, he said.

The restaurant is also offering new petite plate selections — starting at only $3.75 — where diners can sample foods or share them with guests.

Or customers can order main entrees likes pork chop, steak or chicken, adding the sauce of their choice and choosing their own desired side items.

“We have created everything under this umbrella of French inspired neighborhood bistro,” Mears said. “All we’re really doing is offering guests the option of how they access the dining experience depending on how much time they have and or how much money they want to spend.”

 

Reimaging

In 2011, Mimi’s ranked 7th on the list of the 10 largest chains, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. Mimi’s generated $364 million in sales. The Irvine-based cafe began in 1978, but was acquired by Bob Evans Farms Inc. in 2004.

Of all restaurants ranking in the top 100, sales tallied $205.72 billion in nationwide sales — an increase of 4.47 percent from the previous year, reported the data gathering firm.

Prompting the change for Mimi’s, however, was the report that the largest restaurant chains in the next grouping of restaurants by the Nation’s Restaurant News are evenly balanced between casual-dining, quick-service and fast-casual brands, Mears said.

In other words, Mimi’s is shooting to grab a larger share of the market by offering diners a little bit of everything.

Mears was hired in March 2011 to improve sales and profitability — which had been weakening according to the company’s fiscal first-quarter 2013 report issued in August. Prior to Mimi’s, Mears served with The Cheesecake Factory as its chief marketing officer and a senior vice president.

“Strategically, the bakery/cafe/restaurant is the fastest growing segment, fueled largely by Panera Bread,” Mears said.

The chain recognizes that people don’t always have the time for a full sit-down meal, he said. Based on trends in the industry, guests want quality food and drink for a fair price.

And in creating the Parisian atmosphere, Mimi’s is offering a “dining experience,” as well, Mears said.

Test market

“Valencia is the test market,” Mears said. “We’re putting our faith and trust in the SCV community to help make this successful.”

The plan is to reimage a few more restaurants in Northern and Southern California through the company’s fiscal year, ending on May 1. When people go out to eat, there are so many places for them to go, he said. Mimi’s wants to stand out unlike any other restaurant.

Mimi’s will read the results and then expand nationally over the next three to five years, Mears said. The chain expects the changes to be a “tremendous shot in the arm.”

Parent company, Bob Evans Farms, reported remodeling at the three restaurants will cost approximately $1 million.

“I live here and it’s an important investment in the SCV,” Mears said. “We hired 43 new people, and we’re adding jobs to the SCV all without expanding the restaurant.”

Mimi’s – Bakery, Cafe and Bistro – is located at 24201 West Magic Mountain Parkway in Santa Clarita.

 

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