Bon Me will turn its East Cambridge restaurant into a test kitchen next month, unrolling several changes including a revamped menu and electronic ordering kiosks.
The new experiments are part of an effort to stay ahead of the curve, according to CEO Patrick Lynch.
“We opened seven years ago, and we chose to do a lot of things that I think were really new and exciting at the time,” he says. “We featured a lot of bowls, we featured a lot of whole grains, and a lot of fresh vegetables. This was a big part of our success, and we were able to capture some of those trends well before they became more popular. We feel like it’s time for us to change things up and try to get ahead of some of the big trends again. I think a lot of what we’re doing now probably feels just a little less exciting than it did seven years ago.”
The chain will roll out several “chef-crafted dishes” that will allow cooks to experiment with new ingredients and combinations. One menu item that customers can expect is the “K-Town Throwdown,” made up of seasoned rice, kimchee, and the restaurant’s K-Town Chicken. But fans of the regular menu have nothing to fear: current offerings will be folded into a “craft your own bowl” section.
The Binney Street location recently received its malt beverages license, and started offering its first alcoholic drinks at the beginning of March. It’s already stocking drinks from Lamplighter Brewing Co., and will offer up other local beer and cider in the coming weeks.
Bon Me leaders have also teamed up with two students from Brown University to explore the role of technology in ordering, according to Vice President of Community Rebecca Simonson. The chain piloted the ordering kiosks at one of its food trucks and found that they improved the process. The kiosks will be available at the test kitchen.
“We found during this pilot that we were able to [focus] more on making quality dishes and making them quickly,” she says. “We can take more time to talk with people and have these meaningful interactions about the menu, or even have more meaningful interactions on more of a personal level.”
The switch to kiosks will not result in any job losses, according to Bon Me spokesperson Elise Yost, who says that anyone who used to take people’s orders will now be part of the food line and help to speed up service.
Bon Me has already started to quietly implement some of the new changes and offerings, but will officially rebrand the Binney Street location as its test kitchen during the first week of April. The move coincides with the restaurant’s seven-year anniversary.
“It’s our biggest location, it’s in Kendall Square, so we thought the general neighborhood vibe of creativity and new technology and rapid development in the tech world, we thought it was kind of a perfect fit,” Yost says.
During April, customers at all locations will get coupons to get a second entree free when they purchase one at the test kitchen.