Fresh Focus for Metro Diner Cafe
Local, healthy eating trends fuel changes at Annapolis Towne Centre eatery.
Change sometimes requires drastic action.
Metro Diner Cafe took such action recently by closing the doors for a 24-hour period to re-tool the menu and redecorate the interior, turning away potential diners strolling around the Annapolis Towne Centre on a sunny day.
“I wasn’t sure the corporate office was going to let me do it,” said General Manager Simon Wu. “But we got great support from them and our staff. In the long run it was worth it.”
Wu shut the doors to re-train staff on new menu items and procedures and allow decorators to update the interior. Gone are the self-order kiosks and the juke box screen.
“We’re closing the order kiosks for a month on a trial basis,” Wu said. “We wanted to try a more personal touch by having a staff member greet you and a cashier place the order. We’ll see how it goes.”
New menus, printed on recycled paper, still feature most of the popular Metro fare. Missing from the new offering is the sliders and hot sandwiches. A waiter could be heard assuring one customer the full-sized burger has the same taste and quality as the small sliders and only the size has changed.
The kid’s menu still offers the popular slider made from beef, veggie patties, teriyaki turkey or salmon, but the small print says “only for kids ages 12 and under.”
A new menu section touts fresh fusion tacos, each containing less than 600 calories. You can choose from miso-marinated, hormone-free chicken, bison sirloin steak, Lancaster County portabellas and miso ahi tuna.
But the diner is adjusting more than just colors and menu boards. The big emphasis is on communicating their concept, Wu said.
“Fast, fresh and local” has been the diner’s slogan since it opened in April 2009, as a new concept eatery owned by the Silver Diner restaurant founders Bob Giamio and Ype Von Hengst. While there are 16 Silver Diners located throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., there is only one Metro Diner Café.
The idea behind Metro was to re-define the “diner” concept from that of a greasy spoon to a fast, healthy dining option featuring locally produced ingredients. The goal is to develop a successful venture that will attract investors and lead to franchising, store officials said.
The restaurant has adjusted the menu twice since opening in response to market trends and demands. The first change was to focus on top-selling items. The most recent changes are geared to educate clientele on healthy and local options.
“We are emphasizing the fresh, fast and local strategy," Wu said. "We want to communicate better to our customers on the importance of eating healthy and how we get our ingredients from local producers.”
Metro uses eggs and milk from farms in Lancaster, PA. The bison meat featured in burgers and tacos is from Monkton, MD. The breads are listed as “local” and the diner uses in-season produce from Maryland farms.
Wu said he believes the success of the nearby Whole Food Market will help drive customers through his doors.
“Our customers shop at Whole Foods," he said. "They appreciate local foods and eating healthy.”
James Irrgang of Chesapeake Beach has eaten at Metro numerous times. He quickly noticed the difference when he walked in.
“Once we came in we noticed some changes, but it’s nothing drastic,” Irrgang said. “I think it’s good.”
Metro Diner Café will be promoting the new menu this week, sending staff members to canvas the Annapolis Towne Centre and hand out coupons for $5 off a purchase of $10 or more.
Metro also is launching a Facebook and Twitter campaign in June. In September, the diner will kick off “Eat Well, Do Well,” a program that rewards local schools when families dine at Metro.
Metro Diner Café opens every morning at 7 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It is located just below Target in the Annapolis Towne Centre.
For more information, visit their website.