Monday, December 17, 2012

Damn you, Moxie.


When you visit the website for Moxie's and you click on "About Us," the following schtick literally starts off the description: "Moxie's Grill & Bar operates 63 premium casual restaurants in seven provinces with yearly system sales over $200 million." If you're a construction worker, oncologist, folk museologist, executive coach, etc., you probably have no idea how "system sales" differs from just sales.

Moxie's mantra? Starts off: "What makes Moxie's unique and different from others? At Moxie's we believe our most strategic competitive advantage is the company's culture." That's pretty cool. It's straight out of a marketing textbook and completely alienates the diner, but I get it. This is an attractive statement for hooking potential franchisees who will take this Calgary-based premium casual chain eatery across Canada. If anyone from Moxie's reads this blog post, please check out Milestone's or McDonald's website to learn how to design for a good first impression. Pro tip: tuck the corporate stuff behind the diner's site.

The point I'm trying to make is that Moxie's is a restaurant run by those who spin and count beans, and unabashedly so. These are not food people running the show, but most Canadians are not likely to care. The urban surfer of the blogosphere might shake their heads in bewilderment, but the growth of so-called premium casual eateries makes sense. I lived in England for a couple of years and these eateries are everywhere; hell, even most pubs are chains. You have chain tapas joints and chain Parisian-style bistros and chains that are called "Pizza Express" which are surprisingly more upmarket than the name suggests.

It wasn't much to look at.
Sometimes it is about convenience - many outlets are located in suburbs. Suburban couples may want a quick date night without the kids and without a $200 babysitter bill. Sometimes it is because the food is unchallenging and consistent. There are lots of people who don't care for, or have not been introduced to, good cuisine and just want menu items that they understand. So in this light, Moxie's fits well into the evolution of Canada. The Moxie's location that I visited for this review (Riverside and Hunt Club) was only a ~5 minute drive from my office. They do brisk business lunch because the consistent, unchallenging food leaves the kitchen at good pace.

So I'm an urban yupster that likes to meet the cattle rancher providing the stuff that goes in my meat grinder. By definition I'm not supposed to go to a place like Moxie's. And I'm certainly not supposed to like the burger they serve me.

But dammit, I did. I don't know if this was the real deal, a fluke, or a set-up but the burger was actually good. I chose the Mediterranean burger, which included basil pesto, feta, and goat cheese.

Read on after the jump.