Miami Grill at 18660 S. Dixie Hwy.
Miami Grill at 18660 S. Dixie Hwy. (J. Albert Diaz)

A repositioning in the way each location approaches its real estate is at the center of a South Florida restaurant chain’s rebranding.

Richard Chwatt, chief executive of the chain somewhat clunkily renamed the New Miami Subs Grill, told the Daily Business Review that the planned expansion of the restaurant concept will play on a revamped menu, updated store design and spruced-up marketing along with a move away from standalone locations.

“The brand is experiencing a whole rebranding from Miami Subs to Miami Grill,” Chwatt said. “We’re not a sandwich shop anymore. We’re appealing to a somewhat younger, hipper crowd, together with the people we’ve had many years who are loyal to our product.”

Chwatt explained a big part of the effort will be to wean franchisees off the drive-thru business that has accounted for 60 percent to 70 percent of a typical location’s revenue in the past. The move toward so-called “in-line” commercial space—usually strip mall storefronts—will eliminate drive-thrus in favor of a casual sit-down restaurant experience.

“The challenge is for us to get folks to come inside and enjoy the ambience, where you have the great food, you have the flat-screen TVs, you have Pitbull’s music playing: that’s really what we’re trying to create inside,” Chwatt said.

Overcoming that challenge will lead to additional opportunities to locate the 20 stores he’s targeting to open in South Florida “within the next year or so,” he said.

“Our typical, traditional store has a drive-thru, so by definition you’re limited by the locations that are available,” Chwatt said. “But we’ve proven that we can go in-line with stores and still do well,” he explained, citing as an example to a new store in Hawaii.

Expansion in South Florida would be a significant brand boost for the chain formerly known as Miami Subs, which has 29 locations in South Florida and one in Key West. The company was launched by Greek entrepreneur Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis in Fort Lauderdale in 1988. With its neon color scheme, a menu that offered bottles of Dom Perignon and late hours that catered to revelers up for a post-nightclub gyro, the chain grew in popularity to over 200 stores. It foundered to the point that it had only one location operating in its namesake city by the time new management took over in 2010.

Chwatt said new and revamped stores will focus on a more upscale menu than previously offered and feature a “more subtle” design. He notes entertainer Armando Christian Perez, the pop star better known as Pitbull, is one of the chain’s new owners and a driving force in the vision of what the restaurants could be.

Chwatt is not shy about the link to Pitbull, noting one of the singer’s catchphrases “Mas es mas” is a corporate mantra. Mr. 305′s 2012 hit “Don’t Stop the Party” is the ringtone on the executive’s cell phone.

As for what markets would be appropriate for the concept, Chwatt said the chain is looking to expand throughout the Miami area again with “a franchisee that’s almost ready to sign” in South Beach.