January is a time of year when many are still sticking to their New Year's resolutions, and one of the most common resolutions is healthier eating. Matt Rusconi, owner of MOOYAH in West Hartford, said that people can still adhere to their diet goals while enjoying one of his restaurant's burgers.
The West Hartford MOOYAH has joined the chain's "Turkeytarian Moo'vement," a catchy way of saying that MOOYAH is promoting its turkey burgers as a healthy option at the fast casual restaurant.
"It's something that differentiates us from our competitors," said Rusconi, who opened the Bishops Corner location last March. The burgers themselves (all natural Jennie-O turkey burgers) have only 200 calories and 10 grams of fat, said Rusconi. Diners have the option of choosing an "ice burger," a turkey burger nestled in iceburg lettuce that carries a Weight Watchers PointsPlus value of only 5. A turkey burger on wheat starts at 11 points, Rusconi said.
MOOYAH's standard menu includes not only turkey burgers, but also 100 percent beef burgers and vegetarian burgers, all available with a wide variety of toppings and sauces.
It's hard to call the fries healthy, but both regular and sweet potato fries are made fresh, as are the 100 percent ice cream shakes.
"I feel like we have built up a very good following in Bishops Corner," said Rusconi. He has recently expanded his local franchise holdings with a Newington restaurant (24 Fenn Rd.) that opened on Dec. 6, and a location on the UConn Storrs campus which just opened its doors on Dec. 20.
"We're a new brand in a competitive marketplace," Rusconi said, but he thinks the arrival of additional fast casual options in Bishops Corner may help make the area more of a destination for diners. Noodles & Company opened in Bishops Corner last fall, and burger competitor Five Guys just had their application approved to take over an unused portion of Bertucci's space and combine it with the soon-to-be-vacant Oreck space next to Walgreen's. Five Guys plans to open this summer.
"Sometimes competition brings out the best. We have variety in the area, and people get used to stopping," Rusconi said.
Rusconi, who also owns Moe's Southwest Grill in Blue Back Square, is no stranger to competition. He said business has improved since Chipotle opened in West Hartford Center.
In the meantime, Rusconi continues to partner with local non-profits for fundraisers and offer special deals to customers. On Monday nights, a kids meal is free with the purchase of an adult meal, and if the Hartford Whale hockey team wins everyone at the game gets a free burger. At the Storrs location, a UConn basketball ticket stub gets you 20 percent off.
As a company, MOOYAH is doing what it can to promote turkey burgers, including offering a free turkey burger with the purchase of a drink on Jan. 22. National Turkey Burger Month runs through Feb. 3.
The Turkeytarian Moo'vement is also active on social media, offering coupons to those who “Like” MOOYAH on Facebook and a chance to win free MOOYAH turkey burgers for a year to for those who text "TURKEYTARIAN" to 30364. The chain is also implementing an electronic customer loyalty program that includes a free burger after every 10 burgers purchased.