Operated by Norsan Restaurants, Frontera Mex-Mex Grill is a casual dining Mexican restaurant concept that has been serving metro-Atlanta families since 1987. Frontera prides itself on excellent food and “personal touch” service. Frontera operates eleven locations in the Atlanta area, offering both traditional Mexican cuisine along with crowd-pleasing Tex-Mex dishes.
Before the COVID restrictions, Frontera operated primarily as a dine-in restaurant augmented by take-out orders via phone and 3rd party delivery services. DoorDash was first implemented in 2018, followed by UberEats and GrubHub. During normal operations, the majority of business was dine-in, with delivery providing a steady stream of orders and take-out accounting for around 15% of monthly sales.
When the COVID driven restrictions came into place, the revenue stream shifted dramatically. While phone-in take-out rose to 25% of sales, it was 3rd party delivery that provided the majority 75% of orders. Looking to improve the guest experience for take-out and to reduce the workload for staff, Frontera decided to implement the Eigen xDine online ordering solution for their Squirrel POS. Augusto Coronado, VP of Operations for Norsan Restaurants, was kind enough to share some thoughts and learnings from the past several months, and musings on the future.
After the xDine implementation completed in May 2020, and as restrictions have lifted in Georgia, the monthly sales mix looks more diverse:
- Take-out 30% – the majority of this is coming in through the xDine solution, 20-25%
- Delivery 15%
- Dine-in 55%
In addition to providing guests with a better ordering and take-out experience, the xDine and Squirrel solution has reduced the number of staff and terminals required to manage phone orders and reduced the number of associated errors.
Delivery will continue to be an essential part of the mix; however, the exact model will evolve. When Frontera first launched delivery using DoorDash in 2018, the service added revenue without reducing the dine-in sales. In Frontera’s experience, delivery customers are a different segment of the market than dine-in or online/take-out guests and tend to be very loyal to their preferred service. In the future, Frontera is looking at ways to improve the efficiency of delivery, including a solution to aggregate orders from the 3rd party services directly into the POS, as managing multiple tablets and order processes can be challenging. Another approach is to offer a native Frontera delivery service that utilizes the 3rd party providers as a driver pool, reducing the tablet management and potentially lowering the per order cost to the restaurant. Regardless of the specifics, it will remain an important part of Frontera’s service and revenue mix.
Frontera recognized the importance of loyalty and moved to implement a program 3 years ago. The program provides an avenue to promote specials and events over social media and is tied into a mobile app that can utilize push notifications with offers linked to the xDine online ordering site. With approximately 22,000 members, the program is growing steadily and provides an immediate and accessible channel to communicate with guests.
According to Augusto, the most successful restaurants start with great food, excellent service, and an amazing guest experience. However, as Frontera has shown, leveraging technology and a willingness to be ‘on the edge’ can pay real dividends, particularly when faced with an industry-wide challenge such as the COVID crisis. The chain isn’t planning to stop innovating any time soon. As restaurants start to open their dining rooms again, Frontera is planning to deploy technology to allow guests to order & pay for their food using their mobile phones at their table.
A special thanks to Mr. Coronado for sharing his thoughts. If you’d like more information on how to leverage the kind of technologies in this spotlight to help your own business, take a look at some of the solution packages designed to facilitate off-premise and contactless service.