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    The Spirit of Being Mexican
    Operative Cultural Platform | Service Rituals

    What did Grupo Alsea learn from modernizing one of its most emblematic brands?

    Following the worldwide Mexican food boom, El Portón—a Grupo Alsea Mexican restaurant—began a journey to transform its notions of service and better follow the trend. The brand invited Thrust to come on board as part of the strategic team and help develop as well as implement a model that, leveraging the offer of experiencing “wow” service, would recapture a sense of authentic Mexico.

    Getting smart

    Thrust’s solution focused on three needs: business, the brand and people. To involve ourselves 100% in El Portón strategy and operations, we used a technique we call “getting smart” that let us understand and get a handle on the brand’s team culture. We rolled out interviews and snuck in mystery shoppers at a number of restaurant locations and completed a mapping of different employee tribes.

    Teaming up 

    We discovered that to transform the service, the first thing that had to change was the old culture, to move toward a different one that would look out for and resolve employee needs and concerns. We created an organizational proposal based on employee behaviors, attitudes, and aspirations. We also designed a brand ambassador recognition program, designed to promote team-work and achieving positive outcomes.

    Mexican real

    At the same time we studied and defined El Portón’s market niche as part of the new image. We eschewed stereotypes and advocated for quality people and committed service as differentiators of Mexican authenticity. Inspired by Maslow’s Pyramid, we identified six situations and specific needs among diners who came to El Portón. The mission was to make them feel at home by using a personalization strategy. We put together a manual that was practical, precise and easy for restaurant teams to follow. 

    Inspire service culture

    The new El Portón service model was rolled out in more than 30 restaurants in January 2018. Despite Alsea’s later decision to close the restaurants, we transformed its culture and it had the potential of becoming a “go-to” place for different needs and diner types. Our consultancy co-created an operational platform that lit up not just customer spirit but team spirit as well. We succeeded at rolling out the Mexican authenticity we had promised.

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