One of the top requests Fogo received was to make it possible for diners to choose seafood instead of the meat-heavy options. Fogo responded with Mango Chilean Sea Bass, a Brazilian take on a South American classic served with homemade mango relish and malagueta pepper sauce. Chilled Lobster and Shrimp as an appetizer, Smoked Salmon on the Market Table, a Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail small plate, and Garlic Shrimp have joined the menu as well. You can order seafood towers.
“We’ve been successful at that and introducing those items. So we’re going to continue to look at that and the Market Table, where we are really focused on seasonal adaptation so that our guests who would prefer a vegetarian experience are able to focus on the Market Table and have that,” he says. “We’re very aware that we have a very wide demographic and we want to make sure that everybody feels welcomed and enjoys the experience.”
An example of that seasonal take is Fogo’s summer menu, which launched for its Weekday Lunch for $15 offerings. For $15, guests can eat at the Market Table and Feijoada Bar and get family-style service of Brazilian side dishes. For under $25, they can add a single selection of fire-roasted meat. This $15 summer menu added items like a Chickpea Salad, Watermelon Feta Salad, Heirloom Tomato & Mozzarella, and a Watermelon Fresca mocktail.
In line with Johnson’s earlier point, these kinds of innovations speak to Fogo’s overarching desire to bring its guests into its experience, not try to ship its experience to guests. That goal is guiding Fogo through multiple touchpoints. Technology wise, Fogo leverages a mobile app to allow guests to make reservations anywhere and anytime. The brand is on OpenTable. It’s also continually using technology to improve employee scheduling and is looking at possibly figuring handheld technology into the server experience.
“We’re very tuned in to what can we do to make the business more efficient,” he says. “What we do to make the guest experience more efficient and enjoyable? That’s just something that we’re committed to.”
These are changing times for Fogo. The brand originally headed to Dallas from Brazil based on a presidential recommendation. Former President George H.W. Bush dined at a São Paulo location and told the owners to open one in beef-crazed Texas. Two weeks later, the Coser brothers took the leap, without any other recommendations or market research.
In 2006, they sold a 35 percent stake to Brazilian investment fund GP Investments Co. Behind an $88 million IPO, the company went public in June 2015. And this past February, an all-cash deal valued at $560 million with Rhône Capital was announced to take the brand private again. Today, the company has right around 4,500 employees. There are units in Brazil, the U.S., Mexico, and the Middle East.
Rhône is a global alternative investment management firm with more than $5 billion in assets under management that focuses in “market-leading businesses with a pan-European or transatlantic presence and global growth opportunities.”
The global nature of both parties made this an ideal arrangement, Johnson says.