Innovating during a pandemic: The Roti Revolution
We connected with Nicolas “Nico” Nieto, vice president of marketing for Roti Modern Mediterranean, Chicago, to discuss innovation during COVID-19. Roti owns 43 restaurants across the U.S.; 13 are currently open for business.
Roti is being meticulous with its restaurant reopening schedule to ensure that employees and customers are safe and each market can support the business. As units reopen, they’ll incorporate the company’s new “Roti Revolution,” a revitalization program for the fast-casual brand’s food, technology, operations, and consumer-connection efforts.
Q. COVID-19 hit the restaurant industry hard, to say the least. How did Roti respond?
A. “We had one goal in mind, to make sure people were fed. We wanted to serve the communities who served us every day. We closed locations early but expanded the delivery radius of open locations. We fed first responders, partnered with Feed Chicago, implemented a Buy One, Give One program, and donated more than 12,000 meals. We also saw an opportunity to try new things. People were looking for something healthy and really flavorful and didn’t want to compromise on either. We knew this fit perfectly with our brand purpose — Crave Better — so we accelerated our plans to meet consumers where they are now. We wanted to turn this negative climate into a positive experience.”
Q. What is Crave Better?
A. Crave Better is about making a food decision that is delicious and really good for you. The “better” comes from the inherent flavors in the ingredients: we’re sourcing grass-fed beef, sustainable salmon, nutritious vegetables and organic chickpeas, which we use to make our hummus and falafel. Our chef pairs our ingredients with complimenting Mediterranean flavors of cumin, cardamom, zaatar, and tahini. The “better” also comes from the food’s nutritious components, that give you energy, nourish body and mind, and of which much is sustainably sourced — food that makes you feel good.”
Q. How is Crave Better innovating the menu?
A. “Food is the primary part of the Roti Revolution. Chef McGrath created new Hummus Bowls, Pitas and Salads with ingredients that are new to our menu such as beets, cauliflower, braised lamb, amba aoli (mango pickle condiment), and watermelon radishes among others. She also found new uses for existing ingredients; for example, we’re roasting tomatoes and lamb, turning mint into pesto, and making chickpeas crispy for a new texture experience.”
“Vegetables are the star of the Hummus Bowls. The beet hummus bowl is made with Roti’s signature hummus, roasted beets, amba aioli, mint pesto, arugula, and sunflower seeds. The cauliflower hummus bowl has tahini-roasted cauliflower and is complemented with roasted tomatoes, black lentils, mint pesto, and arugula. Many of us treat hummus as a side, but we believe it’s time to enjoy hummus as the main character.”
Q. What are the other components of the Roti Revolution?
A. “We’re revitalizing the entire Roti experience to strengthen the business and consumer connection; this includes new digital menu boards to help our customers find menu items more easily and to showcase seasonal items, a new roti.com website and app, new uniforms, updates to the rewards program, a new way of hiring and training employees, and many other behind-the-scenes innovations. These are all designed to enhance the customer experience and create a heightened sense of hospitality, which is something we’re known for.”