Lisette Montefusco
Vice President of Strategic Planning

Learning to Care for a More Demanding Client

By Gabriela Mastache | Wed, 04/15/2020 - 16:41

Diners have grown more sophisticated and want more than just a meal for their money, says Lisette Montefusco, Vice President of Strategic Planning of CMR. To flourish, restaurant operators must deliver. “For consumers, it is no longer only about going out for dinner. Clients want an entire experience,” she says.

With a 50-year history in the country, restaurant operator CMR has combined a strong brand portfolio with an evolving strategy that revolves around the needs of the market. “CMR has a triangle of priorities: our employees, our financial results and the consumer. But generating new experiences for the customer is of the utmost importance,” says Montefusco.

Historically, the restaurant experience has been no more than a transaction based on supply and demand, according to Montefusco. However, competition has increased and consumers have become more educated and demanding, making experience a key element in ensuring a restaurant’s success. “Everything is based on a price-value dynamic. Consumers assign a value to different elements, ranging from ambiance to simpler things like Wi-Fi signal. It is not only about the product but the elements that surround the transaction,” she says.

CMR has transitioned from a portfolio comprised solely of US brands to incorporating elements of the Mexican culture to appeal to more consumers. “We have implemented concepts that showcase Mexican elements in different ways for different consumers.” As an example, Montefusco mentions the inclusion of a breakfast menu at Chili’s, spicy sauces at Olive Garden and lobster from Ensenada on the Red Lobster menu. “Although these concepts might appear to be 100 percent American, we have managed to reflect Mexico and what is important for Mexican consumers on the menu.” As part of its Mexican push, CMR also launched MUCHO and Sala Gastronómica, both concepts that highlight Mexican elements like ingredients, history and local cuisine.

Another trend that Montefusco discerns and in which CMR has been working is related to the negative impact the company’s activities might have on the environment and how to generate a more sustainable offering. “We follow sustainable lobster fishing practices and offer free-range eggs on some of our menus.” Montefusco adds that the industry is also more professional now, forcing its players to take on more responsibility and invest in processes. “We have made significant investments in supply chain and IT, all with the purpose of reaching the professionalization we require to maintain our leadership in the restaurant sector,” she says.

CMR has positioned itself as an important commercial partner for international investors such as Brinker International and Darden, both of whom were essential to introducing new concepts to the Mexican market. But Montefusco says that any foreign investors looking to enter the country must consider and understand several factors that make the Mexican dynamic unique. “International investors always look at Mexico with interest. However, the local dynamic does not always reflect the same patterns as other economies. Investors need to learn about the country and understand how their projects might fit in the country.”

Photo by:   CMR
Gabriela Mastache Gabriela Mastache Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst