P.F. Chang's to open new concept


P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. plans to open an even more limited-service and pared-down-menu version of its fast-casual Pei Wei Asian Diner in Phoenix next April, executives said Friday.

Called Pei Wei Asian Market, the new test restaurant will take over an existing Diner unit in Phoenix, said K.C. Moylan, president of the 173-unit Asian Diner division. The division is also looking for three to five additional locations around the country.

The Asian Market, as described by Moylan, seems positioned to more closely compete with such quicker-service fast-casual concepts as Chipotle’s recently opened ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen in Washington, D.C.

During an Investor Day webcast Friday, P.F. Chang’s executives also discussed the company’s investment in the expanding four-unit True Food Kitchen, new lunch and other pricing initiatives at the casual-dining China Bistro, international expansion of both the Bistro and Pei Wei concepts, and the move into non-traditional airport locations.

Jeffrey A. Bernstein of Barclays Capital said it was only the second such investors’ gathering in the company’s history; the other was in November 2006. “The question remains whether efforts will resolve comp [sales] concerns without damaging consumer perception and financial performance,” Bernstein’s team wrote in a pre-meeting note.

Pei Wei Asian Market leans towards quick-service

The new extension of the Pei Wei fast-casual brand to the Asian Market drew wide attention. “We’re excited about this opportunity,” Moylan said. “We feel very confident about the diner and our positioning of it.”

The Market will have some distinct differences from the 11-year-old Diner concept, Moylan said.

While the Asian Market will have the same line for queuing and display kitchen as a Diner, it will have two registers instead of four, a spice rack for décor, a digital menu board that resembles a chalkboard, a possible touch-screen terminal with information about ingredients in specific dishes and all items packaged to go, Moylan said.