Case StudyTaziki’s Cafe

What is our purpose?

The Challenge

When Keith and Amy Richards opened their first Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, they had a vision of a restaurant that would exist “somewhere between the Mediterranean markets and mom’s kitchen, where simple ingredients and imaginative recipes come together for a refreshing and original experience.” They wanted to build a restaurant with an uncommon emphasis on food and family. The result is a Southern take on a Mediterranean experience that feels more like a home-cooked meal than a traditional Greek restaurant.

Today the brand’s footprint is growing rapidly across the country – in major metropolitan areas and college towns, alike. Through a franchise strategy, Taziki’s has blossomed from a handful of stores in the Birmingham area to almost 70 across the U.S.

Taziki’s success hinges on the ability to grow while preserving its ethos towards food and culture. After all, the tradeoff between authenticity and scale is one of the few laws of physics that exist in business. But, has that ethos remained intact with the addition of each franchisee? Moreover, what bearing should the brand/culture have on the tough decisions that accompany rapid growth?

Moreover, the answers to those questions must accommodate one of the most fundamental encumbrances in the franchisor-franchisee relationship: adopting a culture, a certain way of doing things, is more about persuasion than compulsion. You can’t policy-manual your way to a corporate culture.



Conversion Point

Unaware to Contemplating
Contemplating to Preparation

Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch


Taziki’s needed a way to study the meaning behind their brand, employee culture and guest experience in order to isolate what makes Taziki’s truly unique, and then apply that unique meaning as an anchor amidst rapid store growth. We designed a research engagement that unearthed the answers to those questions through an array of observational techniques and focus-group methodologies that explored how Taziki’s brand, culture and service delivery model impact employee and guest experience. In doing so, FitzMartin seamlessly integrated research teams into the daily operations of Taziki’s restaurants – both front and back of house.


Study and define Taziki’s current brand and culture: its depth, what to create/craft, what to capture, what to eliminate and what to build upon. Equip Taziki’s leadership with an understanding of the pervasiveness of the brand culture.


Capture insights through quantitative data analysis and qualitative research methodologies (with a heavy focus on observation and immersion techniques). In doing so, we will collaborate with Taziki’s team members and a multi-disciplinary network of experts (e.g. architects and designers).


Provide Taziki’s leadership with strategic direction in order to Institutionalize the right culture (controlling variability through the proper quality assurance mechanisms).


Collaborate with Taziki’s team to apply human-centered “design thinking” to the research findings in order to devise tangible, practical solutions for the needs of real people – employees, franchisees, the franchisor and, most importantly, customers. This initiative will have an impact on future store and office design (the findings of this project may prompt a separate office/store design initiative).

The objective of this effort was clear: surface the core of Taziki’s brand and culture and extend that core across all stores not just consistently, but exceptionally. Accomplish that and growth will surely follow.

This engagement had to grant Taziki’s leadership the ability to see their operational, franchisee and store design challenges in a new light. We had to grant stakeholders from various functional areas – people with different skills, experiences, personalities and perspectives – a methodical way to discuss and evaluate the tradeoffs of big decisions. We saw the importance of tearing down those barriers because we aren’t restaurant ops and store design experts. We had to bring Taziki’s the insights they need and the framework that would put those insights to good use.

Processes Used

Consciousness Raising and Social Impact

Breaking down barriers by identifying what matters

Taziki’s exceptional brand and culture didn’t happen overnight. This engagement revealed first hand how their culture solidified over time, and has been successfully kept intact through the successful integration of information systems into their food preparation processes. Taziki’s was on top of the details. They do a stellar job of minimizing variability through software technologies, training and teamwork.

Yet Taziki’s is more than just systems. The culture governs the way employees approach the things that aren’t so easily routinized – things that look more like values, attitudes and beliefs than tasks. Permission: Team members are given ample training and tools so they can be confident in their judgment and one another and won’t feel paralyzed when they have to make a snap service recovery decision. They have the training and the permission to make decisions.
Moreover, as the engagement unfolded, we learned that codifying the meaning of the brand and culture across the entire footprint meant preserving the transparency between Taziki’s employees and their guests. The open kitchen format and consistently excellent food builds empathy between employees and guests. Guests return the favor by treating Taziki’s employees with etiquette reserved for other people, not businesses. That’s one of many reasons Taziki’s feels more like a traditional restaurant to guests who know the brand well. We were able to show Taziki’s how their peers are really sit-down restaurants and culinary-driven take home offerings.

Applying the meaning of the brand across the entire footprint also necessitated tearing down barriers within the organization as well. We has to grant Taziki’s leadership teams a way to collaborate across functions and talk about complex problems on the same terms. So, we applied our findings towards a framework, based on five brand pillars, that will help leadership teams determine the bearing of Taziki’s brand and culture on the tough strategic, operational and talent decisions that accompany rapid growth. Those five pillars are used day in and day out to clarify the tradeoffs around big decisions – to bring consensus to conflicting viewpoints across functional areas.

As with Taziki’s culture, our work for them doesn’t just live on posters and in binders. We see the impact of this engagement firsthand every time we visit their office and restaurants. We even see the influence of our work in the design and launch of their new restaurant layouts!