Noodles & Co. uses KC as test market for new menu items, rapid pickup & more

Noodles World Kitchen’s new Thai green curry.
Noodles World Kitchen’s new Thai green curry.

Since November, Noodles & Co. World Kitchen has been doing a test in its Kansas City-area and Colorado Springs, Colo., restaurants.

On its menus is a logo with its new name, Noodles World Kitchen. It started switching out the signs on the facade of the area restaurants last week.

Tests of its new pork or chicken adobo and Thai green curry with sauteed shrimp were so positive, they have already been rolled out as permanent additions to the menus at its 411 company-owned and 73 franchise-owned locations across the country.

The company said research showed that the taste of its food ranked lower compared to other fast-casual brands. So it has tweaked some of its other menu items — adding more sauces, more cheese and oven-roasted tomatoes. Meat was previously an add-on to its dishes, but now it is listed as an ingredient.

Other tests:

▪ Digital menu boards to highlight specific items or promotions, as well as to make it easier for customers to order.

▪ Rapid pickup. Customers who order online or with the company’s app and pay ahead of time can just walk in and grab their meal at the front counter.

▪ Bus your own table. A busing station with instructions for customers who prefer to bus their own tables. Employees also will continue to bus tables.

▪ Rewards app, NoodlesRewards, for coupons and specials such as a free bowl or special discount code.

▪ New uniforms with options that include new black ball cap styles or a dark gray beanie.

Noodles World Kitchen started marketing the changes May 15.

The Broomfield, Colo.-based chain has been struggling, along with some other fast-casual chains. So in recent months, it has streamlined its menu, taking away sandwiches and flatbreads to focus on its core product: noodles.

In February, the company said it would close 55 underperforming restaurants. However, eight new restaurants opened in the first quarter, including one franchise, and the company is on target to open six to nine more restaurants by the end of the year.

It has 11 area locations — on the Country Club Plaza; in Independence; Lee’s Summit; the Legends Outlets in Kansas City, Kan.; the Northland; Overland Park; Olathe; Prairie Village; and Lawrence.

Joyce Smith: 816-234-4692, @JoyceKC