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2009 Fast Casual\'s Top 100 Movers & Shakers

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A leader and innvator in the "better burger" segment, young Elevation Burger was awarded #56 on the list. Planning to go straight to the top!

A leader and innvator in the "better burger" segment, young Elevation Burger was awarded #56 on the list. Planning to go straight to the top!


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  • 1. The Fifth Act of Fast Casual Paul Barron, publisher Over the past 15 years since I coined the term “fast casual,” I have seen the segment of restaurant it describes go from virtually nonexistent to become the fastest growing in the restaurant industry. So many concepts based on creativity, passion and innovation have sprung forth in that time that, in essence, their collective emergence heralds the era of Restaurant 2.0. I credit the spread of fast casual concepts across the nation for that reinvention of creativity. In 2009, I visited my 610th fast casual concept. It was called The Cheese Course, in Weston, Fla. At the same time, recalling the variety of brands I had experienced, I began to question my term. What, really, was fast casual? Were the restaurants I was experiencing worthy of being called fast casual, whatever it was? In its early years, even I mistook the segment’s pioneers as just new expressions of the quick-service model, believing further that consumers would never really “get it” when it came to the differences between the latest representatives and the more traditional ones. But when, in the 1990s, the segment congealed and consumers not only recognized but embraced the differences, I came to my senses and began to respond in four critical acts. First, I sought a corporate home for FastCasual.com, the Web site I had developed to begin covering the segment, and I found a good one in NetWorld Alliance. Second, my partners and I produced a new industry event, the Fast Casual Executive Summit. Third, we published the Fast Casual Top 100 and the Fast Casual Annual Benchmark Study. Fourth, we built the Fast Casual Alliance, an industry group that could impact policy and influence the national restaurant scene. This year, for the first time, the segment is included in the National Restaurant Association’s Annual Forecast Report. More than 650 concepts in the United States call themselves fast casual. The global aspect of fast casual is emerging and invading multiple continents. Most consumers really do understand the value proposition that fast casual brings to eating out. And most of all, fast casual has built its own identity in an industry with more than 13 million people employed and more than $580 trillion in sales. No wonder, then, so many operators want to launch fast casual concepts, or to identify their current ones as fast casual. But it takes more than merely adopting the label to fulfill the promise of quality and atmosphere increasingly inherent in it. We now have concepts that falsely believe they have crossed the bridge to fast casual, and some that just believe they have been delivered to the Promised Land just because they say so. As a result, the integrity of the segment is threatened. These realizations have led us to a fifth act in the evolution of fast casual, which is to refine the application of the term itself. First, the definition. A fast casual concept is one that creates a unique value and quality experience, with gourmet-level food or drink, that delivers an interior that wows the guest, all at a price that is driven by value. Second, the culling of concepts that meet the definition. You will see the results in this edition of the Top 100, where many concepts that might have made the list last year were deemed outright ineligible after the application of the standard, or that were close enough to be called wannabes. We have a major responsibility not only to the operators who have sweated the details to create a fast casual concept, but also to the customers who have come to associate the term with a high-level, very specific type of dining experience. Please, then, understand our new focus, and contact me anytime with objection or reasonable argument about why a concept should be — or, for that matter, should not be — considered fast casual. I would welcome the dialogue. Dine tastefully, Paul Barron Publisher Twitter.com/paulbarron
  • 2. 1 Mooyah 11 Dallas / No. of units: Twitter: @mooyahburger Photos courtesy of Mooyah Burgers & Fries Todd Istre was walking around the enjoy the experience. As brand International Franchise Association builders, we’re storytellers as well.” show floor when the idea hit to start a burger franchise. As owner of The brand’s redesign included Boudreaux’s Cajun Kitchen, Istre had a new color palette intended to restaurant-industry experience, but he capture an essence of creative was in Las Vegas to either franchise magic. It also incorporated the brand or create another concept to into the design the now- grow nationwide. iconic Mooyah cow wearing sunglasses. Other enhancements When he returned to Dallas, he called include a coloring wall for good friend Rich Hicks. The two children and the Moofinder, discussed the possibility of a burger a post that features several franchise, and in 2007 the first Mooyah adjustable viewfinders that pass opened its doors in Plano, Texas. on the Mooyah story. Over the next two years, another five locations opened, and by 2009 Hicks “People say they’ve never seen and Istre were at a turning point. That’s anything like it and that’s so critical,” when they brought in former Freebirds Hixon said. “There are a lot of burger president Alan Hixon, who agreed to places out there, but you want to take the Mooyah helm. hear ‘I haven’t seen anything like this before.’ Those are the magic words.” In his short year as president, Hixon has led a revitalization charge that has Hixon said the company plans to given Mooyah new life. The company double in size in 2010 and is close to opened eight new locations in 2009 signing its first deal with a developer and completely revamped the brand’s outside the state of Texas. look and feel. “We’ve created an environment that “We wanted to create energy and people really appreciate,” he said. “I magic within the four walls and truly have kids in my neighborhood that tell a story,” Hixon said. “Now, we want now come up to me and tell me about to create an entire experience that is their Mooyah experience.” entertaining. It’s all about having fun, making people smile and having them — Valerie Killifer FASTCASUAL.COM 3
  • 3. 2 Genghis 40 Dallas / No. of units: Twitter: @genghisgrill Facebook: Genghis Grill Genghis Grill president and CEO Grill Mongolian stir-fry concept. That Top 100. Genghis Grill Al Bhakta saw the potential for the brings its total to 40 stores in 11 states. Customers like the “Build your own ethnic/Asian segment when he and his In 2010, the company hopes to open bowl” experience in which they can partners in The Chalak Group purchased 20 more, Bhakta said. choose their protein, seasonings, the Dallas-based brand in 2004. vegetables, sauce and starch — then “(The market) needed someone who have their fresh-cooked meal brought Members of The Chalak Group have has a good concept to grab that business,” to the table. The brand’s loyal fans been able to take Genghis Grill to the Bhakta said. “We’ve grown every year also enjoy posting their favorite next stage of growth. The company so we feel we made a good choice.” bowl choices on the Genghis Grill’s added 14 units in 2009 — a 70 percent Facebook fan page. Genghis also rate of growth for the The concept’s rise also helped propel courts to-go orders with its online the brand to No. 2 this year, up from ordering. Fast Casual’s Fab 50 listing in 2008, the — Christa Hoyland “ones to watch” segment of the annual 3 The concepts represent rock star or emerging categories in the industry Beautiful Brands and will propel the company into Tulsa, Okla.. / No. of concepts: 14 one of the largest franchisors in the segment, with BBI’s signature concepts, Camille’s Sidewalk Café and FreshBerry, as the role models. Beautiful Brands International (BBI) earns a spot in Fast BBI founders David and Camille Casual’s Top 10 because the Rutkauskas opened their first Camille’s company continues to make in Tulsa in 1996, in a tiny mall-based smart moves in building sandwich kiosk. Now, the brand has its franchise portfolio. In more than 900 territories in development FreshBerry 2009, the company added in 38 states and on four continents. 10 concepts to its fold that range from fast casual salad to “The next one to three years will casual comfort food, including Greenz, consist of opening new stores and The Crusty Croissant, Sonny Bryan’s continuing to bring new restaurants Smokehouse, Kyro Pizza and In the Raw. under the Beautiful Brands umbrella,” Rutkauskas said. “We want to be one The company also is developing three of the leading restaurant development other concepts into franchise chains, companies in the world. We’re including company-owned Rex’s definitely not going to limit ourselves. Chicken, a legendary eatery in Tulsa; We want to grow our company, and we St. Michael’s Alley, a Palo Alto, Calif., have the staff in place to do that.” casual bistro; and Le Beau Roulleau, a — V.K. crepe concept. Camille’s Sidewalk Café 4 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 4. Pizza Fusion Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / No. of locations: 19 Twitter: @PizzaFusion Facebook: Pizza Fusion 4 use organic ingredients, but also strive for holistic But these stipulations don’t preclude the company from offering innovative sustainability, with an and delicious pies. Part of its success efficient, green interior, comes from its all-natural and organic- fair employment laws and sourced meats, veggies and cheeses hybrid delivery vehicles. that go on its pizza and in its salads, Pizza Fusion sandwiches and wraps. Even the sodas, They’ve come a long way wine and beer Pizza Fusion offers are This Fort Lauderdale-based chain has since their initial Florida either local, organic or both. pioneered the green subgenre within days. In 2009, the company’s fifth unit the pizza category. It’s less than four in Atlanta became LEED certified Pizza Fusion has a total of 19 stores years old, but last year the concept for its eco-minded interior, which and opened its first international truly arrived. included the recycled concrete and location in Saudi Arabia last glass, eco-friendly paint and other November. As of our publication Pizza Fusion was started in July 2006 recyclable materials used in many deadline, the company was on the by Vaughn Lazar and Michael Gordon, Pizza Fusion locations. At the end brink of opening a store at a military both already savvy businessmen with of last year, About.com honored the installation in Arlington, Va., the first green-slanted enterprises. It was only company with an award for “Best of a handful of nontraditional location natural, then, that they’d start a store Green Retailing Practices in the U.S. openings with the Compass Group. that continued the theme. Their Retail Industry.” joint pizza venture would not only — Jennifer Litz 5 Rubio’s Rubio’s/ No. of units: 190+ Carlsbad, Calif. Twitter: @Rubios_BeachMex Facebook: Rubio’s When Ralph Rubio and his father launched Dan Pittard, Executives Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Rubio’s continued Grill in 1983, fish tacos were almost president and to work unheard of to consumers outside of CEO, said at the with several Mexico. But while on a college spring time of the buyout offer. “We offer company break trip to the Baja village of San an attractive, casual ambiance and suppliers to Felipe, Rubio stumbled upon what has menu selection at prices significantly create low-sodium versions of menu now become the restaurant’s signature below casual dining price points. items. The change stemmed from menu item. Our market research confirms that a California’s passage of menu-labeling growing number of guests understand legislation, designed to put a spotlight In 2009, Rubio’s ended its third quarter this value proposition, and we believe on menu items’ nutritional content. debt free, and passed on an $80 we are very well-positioned now and million buyout offer received from an when the economy improves.” “The beauty for us is we already have investment group headed by one of its low-calorie options, and when you largest shareholders. In addition to the successful launch of add the low-sodium aspect we’re even its limited-time All-American Taco, better off,” Rubio said. “We believe that Rubio’s continues to the company continued with its efforts — V.K. have a winning strategy for fast casual,” to offer healthier menu items in 2009. FASTCASUAL.COM 5
  • 5. 6 Entrepreneur Magazine dubbed 2009 FirehouseofSubs Jacksonville, Fla. / No. units: 370 Twitter: @Firehouse_Subs Facebook: Firehouse Subs worked for restaurants as the “Year of the sandwich”, and throughout Jacksonville, perhaps no sandwich concept had a Fla. The brothers used better year than Firehouse Subs. the credit card of Chris’ mother-in-law to get the Founded by brothers Robin and Chris concept off the ground Firehouse Subs Sorensen in 1994, the concept’s menu and stayed on at the local is based on the offering of quality fire department to help sandwiches steamed (not toasted) to get the credit card paid Their hard work and dedication has perfection. off, which they were able to do eight paid off. In 2009, Firehouse Subs months after opening the first location. opened 38 locations in the markets of When the brothers, who were firemen, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, first came up with the idea, they had “We were so focused,” Robin Sorensen Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, no money and no restaurant-industry said. “We were so excited and confident South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and experience. So for two years, Chris, by this idea. I just never, for one Virginia. They also signed 26 new who was 24 years old at second, thought we wouldn’t be individual franchisee agreements. the time, successful.” — V.K. 7 Au Bon Pain “Last year (2008), as the great Boston / No. of locations: 250+ recession hit, things changed,” Morelli Twitter: AuBonPain said. “Consumer buying behavior Facebook: Au Bon Pain worldwide has changed. We spent a lot of 2009 trying to figure out what is going on, where is this consumer Au Bon Pain was our top mindset nowadays and how do we 2008 mover and shaker react.” and we still think the chain deserves to be in In addition to shifting the focus of its our top 10. brand mission, Au Bon Pain executives decided the menu should reflect less In 2009, the company trendy menu items. And last year, the revised its brand company launched Demi sandwiches mission and essence for $3.99. The grab-and-go sandwiches to cope with the are available with a variety of meats economic recession and can be paired with soup or a small and to reflect salad and are a nice addition to the Au B on Pain “something simple company’s Portions menu, launched in and something 2008. our field can — V.K. understand,” Au Bon Pain CEO Sue Morelli said. 6 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 6. 8 9 Einstein Zoup! Bros. Bagels Southfield, Mich. Lakewood, Colo. No. of locations: 24 No. of locations: 180+ Twitter: Zoup_Soup Twitter: Einstein_Bros Facebook: Zoup! Facebook: Einstein Bros. Bagels There is a great benefit to being a bagel-and-coffee deli: You cater Zoup! directly to the rushed business executive’s diet. Zoup! has been around since 1998, The company’s emphasis on but it didn’t start gaining speed for consumer choice and health has “When dining management groups a couple of years. In the last few, made it especially popular, and the decide which brands they want in however, it has made up for lost time, store opened three new locations their facilities, we are increasingly at least in terms of brand recognition. in three states in 2009 — putting it becoming a top choice,” said Jeff at roughly 24 units at our time of O’Neill, chief executive officer of A master of differentiation, the publication. It has recently turned Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc., concept has made headway with its toward nontraditional locations, the brand’s parent company. “We 12 always-rotating soup varieties, having opened at Airport Center in are a strong concept for reputable each made completely from scratch, Hanover Township in August 2009. organizations such as ARAMARK, and always including at least one Sodexo, Compass Group and AAFES — J.L. low-fat, vegetarian, dairy-free and because we offer quality, freshness and spicy option. Their homemade stock convenience where portability and is made from triple-distilled water. 10 affordability are essential.” But professionals aren’t the only ones that go for this model of higher-scale food in a fast casual business model. Students love it, too, and the company Fast Casual Alliance has capitalized on that fact. LinkedIn: Fast Casual Alliance In the fourth quarter of 2009, Einstein Bros. Bagels opened 31 licensed As the founders of the Fast Casual council fits into the NRA’s new locations in a variety of venues, Alliance, we were hesitant to include strategic initiative to better unite the including universities, health-care the organization on our list of movers restaurant industry as a whole. And facilities, military bases and corporate and shakers, not to mention to rank it’s the first industry council of its headquarters. In 2010, the company it in the top 10. But our panel was kind for the NRA. plans to exceed its 2009 openings for convinced the Alliance had one of another record year. the best and brightest years in 2009, “In a year that was highlighted by — J.L. and was instrumental in pushing the unprecedented economic conditions segment forward. the Fast Casual Alliance grew and . Bagels continued to spread the word about Einstein Bros After close to three years as a small serving great food that is affordable,” group consisting of passionate fast said FCA president Louis Basile. casual operators, the Fast Casual “I believe the overall value that our Alliance will reside under the segment provides for the consumer NRA umbrella as the Fast Casual is something very special. I am very Alliance – An NRA Industry excited about the opportunities and Council, it was announced challenges we face together in 2010.” Sept. 15. The creation of the — V.K. FASTCASUAL.COM 7
  • 7. 11. Smashburger salsa bar and more than 50 varieties maximizing the guest experience in Denver / No. of units: 44 of hot sauce. In August, the company addition to its quality food has landed Smashburger, a self-described “better also hired former Starbucks director of the chain at No. 13 on our list, up from burger” concept, was founded in new store development Angela Kenyon No. 79 last year. 2007 by private equity and concept- as its new VP of development. Kenyon development firm Consumer also has worked with brands such as Dunkin’ Brands and Burger King. 14. Jason’s Deli Capital Partners. The company has Beaumont, Texas / No. of units: 215 already sold franchise agreements Rusty Coco, who co-founded Jason’s for more than 275 locations around 13. Vapiano Deli in 1978 with three partners, has the country. In 2009, Smashburger McLean, Va. / No. of units: 42 worldwide been on a mission in recent years to signed development deals for Las The hip, urban and sleek Vapiano make the neighborhood deli chain’s Vegas, southwest Utah, Chicago has brought European fast casual menu healthier. Since 2005, Jason’s has and Oklahoma City, among several dining to the U.S. market as it expands eliminated trans fat and MSG from others. It also caught the eye of Dallas around the world. The Germany-based its entire menu, and high fructose Cowboys lineman Leonard Davis, concept offers a Northern Italian corn syrup from everything except its who signed a 30-unit deal to franchise dining experience with a menu of fountain beverages. the company through BIGG Capital pizza, pasta and salad. The gourmet Holdings LLC. chain’s focus on 15. California Tortilla Rocksville, Md./ No. of units: 38 12. Lime Fresh Smashburge r Mexican Grill From its secret password day to its Miami / No. of units: 5 “Get In On It” social media promotion, California Tortilla continues to raise Restaurateur John Kunkel the bar on creative marketing efforts opened the first Lime Fresh that work. In 2009, the company Mexican Grill location in 2004 introduced a children’s activity book after selling another concept and saw a 32 percent daily sales he founded in South Beach, increase during its May 20 Pop-Tart Fla. Lime Fresh restaurants Day promotion. In all, more than feature fresh food prepared 20,000 Pop-Tarts were given away in-house daily, a homemade across the company’s 38 locations. 16. Panera Bread Richmond Heights, Mo. / No. of units: 1,362 Panera Bread Co. operates restaurants under the Panera Bread Co., St. Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Café names. The company, founded in 1981, is widely recognized for driving the nationwide trend for specialty breads. Last year, the company was the industry darling because of same-store sales increases that seemed to defy an economic recession. Even though CEO Ron Shaich is stepping down this year, his formula for success is what keeps Panera Bread rising. Lime Fresh Mexican Grill 8 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 8. Chipotle 17. Qdoba Arlington, Va., 19. Chipotle Denver / No. of units: 510 in 1986, serving Denver / No. of units: 911 In addition to the launch of a hamburgers When Steve Ells revamped kids’ menu in 2009, Qdoba made with launched Chipotle raised $25,000 for the Starlight fresh, never Mexican Grill in 1993, Children’s Foundation, as part of the frozen ground the concept was supposed company’s Qdoba Qmmunity online beef. In fact, to be a holdover until Ells, promotion. The campaign marked there are no trained in French cooking, Qdoba’s first campaign with Starlight, freezers in could launch his “real” an international charity dedicated to Five Guys restaurant. But Chipotle helping seriously ill children and their restaurants, only coolers. was a force all unto itself families cope with the illness. Qdoba The company touts the fact that and its early-days success caused Ells also opened its 500th location last year there are more than 250,000 ways to to rethink his plan. Built around the and announced a three-year deal with order a burger in its restaurants. Five motto “Food with Integrity,” the fast the Boston Red Sox. Guys consistently topped consumer casual burrito behemoth has achieved “best of ” polls in 2009 and even year-over-year revenue growth. It captured the heart (and stomach) of ended 2009 with $1.13 billion in 18. Five Guys President Barack Obama, who made revenue, a 14.6 percent increase over Lorton, Va. / No. of units: 450 a surprise lunchtime visit in June to a the prior year. Five Guys opened its first restaurant in Washington, D.C., restaurant. FOOD TREND OF 2009: KiDS’ MEALS Café, Fazoli’s and a host of other chains offered the same deal, with Boston Market extending the promotion to include two children per A renewed focus on offerings for children defined family. many a fast casual menu in 2009. By Valerie Killifer “We know that times are difficult, and when we welcome families into our restaurants, we want to offer them the best meal at the best price possible — in this case, as free as possible,” said Lane Cardwell, While quick-service chains have predominantly held the market in CEO of Boston Market, in a September news release. “If you’re a regard to offerings for children, fast casual operators used 2009 to go single parent or adult dining alone with two kids, that shouldn’t be a after this small but popular customer segment. barrier to a great deal.” Chipotle and Bruegger’s launched kids’ meals last year while As far as demographics are concerned, it’s a good thing fast Qdoba revamped its children’s menu. casual operators are targeting the younger generation now. When Bruegger’s launched its children’s menu in August, the Based on a December 2009 NPD report, over the next decade, company was making an effort to reach an important demographic, future kids under 10 years of age are expected to have more Bruegger’s CEO Jim Greco said. influence on the top five food groups expected to increase in With children being served same-sized portion items as consumption: salty/savory snacks, easy meals, center-of- adults, and with no real menu offering catered just to them, plate proteins (i.e., meat entrees), sweet snacks/desserts the Bruegger’s executive chef went to work creating grilled and heat-and-eat breakfasts. cheese and peanut butter sandwiches specifically targeted “As the different generations age over the next to children. decade, corresponding changes in their life stage will The company’s grilled cheese and peanut butter have a major impact on what and how they eat,” offerings also come served on a whole wheat bagel, said Ann Hanson, author of the report, “A Look into speaking to the trend not only of having a the Future of Eating”, and director children’s menu, but also of creating one of product development at NPD. that highlights healthier and right-sized “Understanding the effect of aging options for children. on the various generations’ eating In addition to launching a kids’ menu habits and preferences helps food and last year, Chipotle also offered a free beverage companies develop long- kids’ meal promotion. And it wasn’t the range plans in terms of their overall only one. product portfolio, positioning and Boston Market, Tropical Smoothie innovation.” FASTCASUAL.COM 9
  • 9. 20. La Madeleine 23. Bruegger’s 25. Wow Bao Dallas / No. of units: 60 Burlington, Vt. / No. of units: 296 Chicago / No. of locations: 3 While the ambiance at La Madeleine is Despite the nation’s economic Known for its hot Asian buns, Wow what guests find inviting, it’s the food downturn, Bruegger’s opened 158 Bao has developed a reputation for that keeps them coming back again locations in 2009, through both serving steamed potstickers, otherwise and again. With menu items such as organic growth and the acquisition of known as a Chinese dumpling. Wow Tilapia Rustique (tilapia simmered in the restaurant holdings of Timothy’s Bao is part of the Lettuce Entertain Chardonnay and sun-dried tomato World Coffee. Bruegger’s also opened You family and features a menu that pesto) and Strawberries Romanoff its first unit in Rhode Island, marking includes Pad Thai salad, soups and (strawberries topped with a brandy the company’s presence in 25 states rice bowls. The dumplings are so full sour cream sauce), La Madeleine and the District of Columbia. The of flavor, Gourmet Magazine’s David elevates the fast casual dining chain also launched its first-ever kids’ Tamarkin named Wow Bao one of the experience and turns the ordinary into menu and opened its fourth airport eight great places for dumplings in extraordinary. location. Chicago in the May 2009 issue. Bruegger’s 21. Charley’s Grilled Subs Columbus, Ohio / No. of units: 400 Charley’s Grilled Subs founder Charley Shin got his start in the restaurant business working at his mother’s Japanese/Korean reastaurant in Columbus, Ohio. It was on a family trip to New York, where Shin made a wrong turn and ended up in Philadelphia, where he discovered the Philly cheese steak sandwich. That experience served Charley’s Gr as the inspiration for illed Subs Charley’s Grilled Subs, 26. Garbanzo which opened its 400th location in January. Mediterranean Grill Denver / No. of units: 6 24.Wingstop Founded on the core concepts of Dallas / No. of units: 435 22. Potbelly Sandwich Works healthy, fresh and authentic, Garbanzo Chicago / No. of units: 200+ At the end of 2009, the chicken-wing Mediterranean Grill is generating themed Wingstop reported its 26th buzz in Colorado and beyond with What started out as a small antique consecutive month of same-store sales the introduction of quality, fast casual store on Chicago’s north side has increases. Comparable store sales for Mediterranean cuisine. Founder Alon turned into one of the fastest-growing 2009 increased 3.8 percent over the Mor has led the growth of the concept sandwich chains in the United States. previous year, while annual system- to six units at the end of 2009, and In 2009, Potbelly built upon its record wide sales reached $306.7 million. In plans are under way for six more to estimated sales growth of $255 million 2009, the company opened 45 new open in 2010. The concept also has in 2008. It also launched the Potbelly stores, including its first international launched a franchise effort to grow in Skinny line of sandwiches and Potbelly restaurant in Mexico City. It has other regions of the country, including BIGS, smaller and larger versions of its announced plans to open another 69 the Midwest and Northeast. Originals. locations in 2010. 10 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 10. The Dirty Dozen The fast casual industry quickly filled a niche in the restaurant industry when it offered consumers a level of quality 27. McAlister’s Deli and experience above quick-service Ridgeland, Miss. / No. of units: 270+ while still focusing on convenience. More than 150,000 cups of sweet Consumers have gravitated to the better tea can’t be wrong. That’s how many service model, trading up from QSR and down from casual dining. And brands in glasses of its signature sweet tea those segments have taken notice. McAlister’s Deli handed out during Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen has its July 23 Leave Sweet Tea to the Pros focused on improving its food quality promotion. The day was supported and dining experience in order to by a viral media campaign that transition into the fast casual space. incorporated both Facebook and four- Other QSRs like McDonald’s have noted fast casual’s menu success and walls marketing materials. According found it feasible to focus on premium to a consumer survey, 6 percent of menu items. promotion participants were first-time guests. The company also announced 30. Zaxby’s Below is a list of the 12 brands FastCasual.com sees as the top Athens, Ga. / No. of units: 490+ plans to open 10 locations in central wannabes, brands that have either Ohio over the next two years. Zaxby’s opened 35 new locations in launched fast casual spinoffs or tried 2009 and introduced the Chicken to transition to the segment’s modus operandi. In alphabetical order: Parmesan sandwich in the third 1. Baskin-Robbins - QSR ice cream 28. Bean Sprouts quarter. The company also tested a chain with fast casual spinoff of a Middleton, Wis. / No. of units: 1 line of milkshakes that will roll out handful of B-R Express units Bean Sprouts is a parent’s paradise. The systemwide this year. Its successful 2. Black-eyed Pea - Casual dining “Indescribably Good” advertising chain with single-unit fast casual hip and healthy café is devoted entirely Black-eyed Pea Express to kids, earning it a designation as campaign continued in 2009 with 3. Buffalo Wild Wings - Casual the ultimate kids’ café. In addition to spots featuring Paul Teutul Sr. and dining fast casual hybrid child-friendly menu items (even baby Michael Teutul from Orange County 4. Burger King - QSR burger chain food), the café hosts cooking classes Choppers, Olympic gymnastics coach recently launched upscale and tea parties exclusively for kids. Béla Károlyi, actors Fred Willard redesign and Whopper Bar concept that it says will rival The owners have a book coming out and Paul Sorvino, Paige Hemmis of casual dining in spring 2010, “Bean Appetit: Hip & “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, 5. Burgerville - QSR burger chain Healthy Ways to Have Fun with Food.” “Dancing with the Stars” judge Bruno with elevated menu experience, They also are working with a national Tonioli, and sports stars Mike Ditka, focusing on locally sourced foods television network for a syndicated Herschel Walker and Terry Bradshaw. 6. Captain D’s - QSR seafood chain show due out in late 2010. that improved its menu and is undergoing a reimaging program 7. Culver’s - QSR burger chain that 31. Corner Bakery Café offers made-to-order meals and 29. Tender Greens Dallas / No. of units: 115 homemade frozen custard Los Angeles / No. of units: 4 8. El Pollo Loco - High-end QSR that Corner Bakery Café ended 2009 with Tender Greens has placed an emphasis delivers on better quality food a bang, establishing a partnership but focuses on quick service, on using locally sourced products for with S&B Development Inc. to open especially at the drive-thru. menu items such as Chipotle Barbecue 11 franchise-operated locations 9. iHOP - Family dining pancake Chicken and Grilled Flatiron Steak. in San Diego, Calif., by 2016. The chain with fast casual spinoff The company takes its commitment to deal continues a trend of aggressive IHOP Express environmental responsibility seriously. 10. McDonald’s - QSR burger leader expansion. In October 2006, CBC keeps improving the in-store Its new Hollywood, Calif., location Restaurant Corp. launched a strategic experience and adding features reclaimed and recycled franchise development program premium items to menu materials, acid-stained sealed concrete 11. Pollo Campero - QSR South designed to attract potential franchise floors, skylights and original artwork. American chicken chain with All wood surfaces are certified by the partners. With the S&B Development made-to-order menu items Forest Stewardship Council and/or Inc. partnership, CBC Restaurant 12. Raising Cane’s - QSR chicken LEED. Tender Greens also has installed Corp. has a total of 125 committed finger chain featuring fresh, an Ever Pure water-filtering system and new franchise locations, more than premium ingredients for its doubling the current Corner Bakery menu of fried foods plans to do away with all bottled water and soft drinks by the end of 2010. Café system. FASTCASUAL.COM 11
  • 11. 34. WOW Café if customers bring in their own bowl, and Wingery they can even get it washed and filled Covington, La. / No. of units: 53 with their order. In 2009, WOW Café and Sodexo collaborated to 37. Fazoli’s open 10 campus locations, Lexington, Ky. / No. of units: 250 with additional units set to Fazoli’s president Carl Howard hit open in 2010. In addition, the ground running when he took WOW Café and Wingery over at the chain’s helm in 2008. The has continued to expand its company launched a new menu and menu and offers several new has continued to test new product dishes that are inspired by its lines that are expected to debut this Saladworks 17 proprietary sauces. WOW year. The company also has three new Café and Wingery boasts 53 locations, locations under construction, marking 32. Saladworks and the restaurant expects to grow to the first new stores Fazoli’s has opened Conshohocken, Pa. / No. of units: 98 75 units across the country in 2010. in more than four years. When John Scardapane launched Saladworks in 1986 in the Cherry Hills, N.J., mall, he was told more than 35. Farmer Boys Riverside, Calif. / No. of units: 67 once the concept wouldn’t last. But when the salad store started to outsell Between July and October of the mall’s burger and pizza franchises, 2009, Farmer Boys was ranked by he knew consumers were hooked. RestaurantChains.net as the third Saladworks continues to widen its fastest-growing fast casual brand, girth. In 2009, it opened the first of 15 opening six out of its 67 locations locations slated for the Washington, during the period. Farmer Boys D.C., area. It also was named as the restaurants are found in southern and nation’s No. 1 salad franchise for 2010 central California and Nevada. The by Entrepreneur Magazine. restaurant is known for its award- winning burgers, monster-sized onion rings and crispy zucchini, 33. Boloco prepared exclusively with farm-fresh Fazoli’s Boston / No. of units: 16 ingredients. The first store opened John Pepper’s Boloco (short for Boston in 1981 and launched its franchise program close to 20 years later. 38. Cowboy Chicken local) reigns supreme with native Dallas / No. of units: 3 Bostoners and guests. Boloco was the first chain of restaurants in New Since 1981, this popular Dallas England to become certified green 36. Freshii franchise has roasted chicken over a by the Green Restaurant Association. Chicago / No. of units: 16 hickory wood-burning fire, providing And the most popular of its latest The concept that started in Toronto a healthy alternative to its fried initiatives in sustainability are spent the better part of 2009 plotting competitors. Its award-winning chicken naturally raised meats, potato starch its U.S. takeover. The company enchiladas, chicken salad sandwiches utensils and bamboo bowls. Pepper signed agreements to open locations and homemade peach cobbler have also has capitalized on the social media in Washington, D.C., New York been on the menu since Cowboy’s phenom to further expand Boloco’s City, Boston, Philadelphia, Illinois, inception. And to appeal to the health- word-of-mouth presence. Colorado and Wyoming, just to name conscious crowd, the concept added a few. It also sold its first master fresh salads, grilled skinless chicken franchise agreement for Eastern breast and nutritious sides such as Europe. The company also is backed by steamed butternut squash, green beans a self-proclaimed “green mission.” And and campfire veggies. 12 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 12. 39. Salsarita’s American vegetarian-fed beef. To Adams Restaurant Group, at the Fresh Cantina wash it all down, Fuddruckers launched time the largest franchisee of Mama Charlotte, N.C. / No. of units: 76 its Fudds Freeze. The new drinks blend Fu’s in the Raving Brands system. Pepsi-branded soft drinks with the chain’s Since the acquisition, Mama Fu’s In 2009, Salsarita’s opened four new vanilla shake mix. The drink is then new owners have been busy. The restaurants and signed agreements topped with whipped cream and a cherry. company introduced a new prototype for 28 more locations. This year, the in February of last year and also concept has plans to further close in on restructured its menu. The efforts its goal of having 100 units in operation. 41. Hot Head Burritos paid off. In September, the company It currently has four under construction Dayton, Ohio / No. of units: 7 announced it was able to increase in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas and Hot Head Burritos received national same-store revenue at corporate and Puerto Rico. Salsarita’s ultimate goal is recognition when it was named by affiliate stores by more than 6 percent. to open 200 restaurants by 2012 through AOL.com as one of the next big It also lowered startup costs and the a combination of traditional franchise restaurant chains. The recognition unit level by 20 percent. developments and partnerships with threw the seven-unit burrito chain international foodservice agents into the national spotlight. Owners Compass Group and HMS Host. Cynthia and Ray Wiley spent the 43. Greenz Dallas / No. of locations: 3 better part of 2009 preparing the 40. Fuddruckers company’s franchise plan. Their work Since the beginning of 2009, Greenz Austin, Texas / No. of locations: 227 paid off. In December, the company’s founder Cassie Caldwell has grown the first franchise location opened in Troy, concept’s catering sales by 35 percent. Fuddruckers made ordering easier for Ohio. Thirty more units are expected She also struck up a deal with Equinox its guests in 2009 with the launch of to open this year. Fitness Center to open a scaled-down its online ordering platform in select version of Greenz in its Dallas fitness markets. At least 12 Fuddruckers center. Six months later, Greenz locations were given online ordering 42. Mama Fu’s Asian Diner showed up on Beautiful Brands’ roster capabilities, with more to follow Austin, Texas / No. of units: 13 of concepts to franchise and sell suit this year. The burger joint In March 2008, Mama Fu’s Asian worldwide. also introduced its Fudds Prime, Diner was purchased by the Murphy a premium burger made with all- TOP MARKETiNG TREND OF 2009: online conversations. The tools helped brands address customer service issues and provided insight into what people were saying SOCiAL MEDiA Brands looked to Facebook about their overall customer experience. For 2010, look for brands to find more ways to use social media, and Twitter to connect with fans. By Christa Hoyland including the creation of branded video channels. A small handful of restaurant chains already have a YouTube channel, and In 2008, many brands were starting to experiment with social forward-thinking ones will use those sites for more creative branding media as a way to build their marketing muscle, and by mid-2009 opportunities. The outlet has potential for a new form of restaurant social media initiatives were being built into marketing strategies marketing, a la The Food Network. Instead of turning to cable, across the industry. Facebook and Twitter were key to fast casuals consumers may soon be learning how to cook from their favorite fast finding creative solutions to attract and retain a new kind of casual. consumer. Those who find new ways to Smart brands such as Red Mango used the sites to connect use social media will be ready with customers, and actually sought and rewarded customer input for the next technology wave, said and attentiveness. In November, Red Mango offered its 100,000 Adam Sarner, research director at IT Facebook fans a $1-off coupon when its fan page reached that consulting firm Gartner Inc., which follower milestone. The next month, the company asked its fans if specializes in social CRM. they would visit more often if the stores offered a line of all-natural “The need to communicate fruit and yogurt smoothies, and hundreds of fans posted enthusiastic (stays the same) but the positive responses. technology and where people are Brands also learned how to leverage the sites as effective going to communicate does change,” customer service management tools. As more brands did so, a he said. number of new technologies emerged to help track customers’ FASTCASUAL.COM 13
  • 13. 44. Atlanta Bread effort. Freebirds participates by giving 49. zpizza Atlanta / No. of units: 107 away free burritos to bikers who irvine, Calif. / No. of units: 92 Nearly two years ago executives at descend upon its Northgate location. Zpizza shed its borders and boundaries Atlanta Bread, facing stymied growth in 2009 with the opening of three and outdated interiors and menu international locations. The company 47. Schlotzsky’s Deli items, made the decision to rebrand Austin, Texas / No. of units: 365+ now has three locations open in the the concept. The process began in 2009 Middle East and one in Mexico. The Schlotzsky’s Deli shifted its service stores mark the beginning of zpizza’s as designers created a new interior model in 2009 at the company’s journey into the Middle East and look that made use of private seating approximately 365 locations as part of Mexico, both important expansion areas, comfortable sofas, a softer color the brand’s refocus on the customer territories for the California-based palette, updated artwork and new experience. President Kelly Roddy chain. In all, the company, which menu items. In certain markets where said the new system has decreased opened its first location in 1986, has the upgrade has been incorporated, the number of customers who pick more than 400 locations planned for the locations have had a 30 percent up the wrong order and has improved United States, Middle East and Mexico. upswing in same-store sales. accuracy. The company also unveiled its new tag line, “lotz better,” designed 45. Grand Traverse to reflect other changes taking place 50. Wildflower Pie Company throughout the restaurants. The Bread Company Traverse City, Mich. / No. of units: 17 shift occurred across all aspects of Scottsdale, Ariz. / No. of units: 11 restaurant operations — from an Wildflower Bread Company founder The owners of Grand Traverse Pie updated store design to enhanced Louis Basile has built his chain of Company purchase more than catering and customer service bakery-cafés around the premise of 1 million pounds of Michigan programs. serving great food. Sandwiches include agricultural products each year. While its growth leveled off in 2009, the Roasted Sweet Potato on herb focaccia company’s focus on supporting and braised beef on a grilled ciabatta local suppliers is something to role, while Butternut Squash Ravioli be commended. Since opening its and Spinach & Artichoke Lasagna first location in 1996, owners Mike round out fresh pasta offerings. Basile’s and Denise Busley have expanded attention to detail also can be seen their pie shop to include a line of throughout every design element of sandwiches, soups, salads and quiche. the restaurant. He also is planning to The stores also sell “Make and Bake Pie open two new locations later this year. mpany Kits” that can be used for community Noodles & Co fundraising efforts. 51. Sweetgreen Washington, D.C. / No. of units: 3 46. Freebirds World Burrito 48. NoodlesNo. of units: 218 Broomfield, Colo. / & Company Three Georgetown University students Emeryville, Calif. / No. of units: 28 yearning for a more diverse selection In addition to placing third on Parents of dining options decided to solve Since being purchased by Tavistock Magazine’s ranking of the best fast the problem themselves by opening Group in 2007, Freebirds has opened casual restaurants in 2009, Noodles Sweetgreen, a healthy fast casual two new locations in its primary & Company opened in several new concept offering all-natural salads market of Texas. Five more stores are markets during the year. Locations and frozen yogurt. Inspired by similar slated to open in the early months in Illinois, California, Colorado and concepts in Los Angeles and New of 2010. In addition to the food, Minnesota helped the brand grow its York, the trio refined their concept customers have come to love Freebirds’ nationwide footprint. The company during senior year and then set out innovative interior design and its also launched its new signature to create a restaurant that combines a support of community events such as spaghetti and meatballs dish. The dish healthy meal with a healthy dessert. Bike to Work and School Day, which They opened their first location in August started in 1994 as a community wide was Noodles & Company’s first new permanent menu addition since 2004. 2007 and two more locations in 2009. 14 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 14. SWEET SIXTEEN 52. The Mixx Kansas City, Mo. / No. of units: 2 55. italian Oven Café West Palm Beach, Fla. / No. of units: 1 Owner Jo Marie Scaglia opened The There are fast casuals that serve Italian Mixx in 2005 after observing the need cuisine and then there is Italian Oven for a healthy fast casual alternative Café. The 3,400-square-foot restaurant in a city where barbecue rules. The features a menu rich in olive oil, nuts, Mixx allows its patrons to customize fruits and vegetables. Founder James their own fresh salads and sandwiches Frye expected the restaurant to hit from an extensive list of more than a first-year revenue of $1.7 million, 50 ingredients. The Mixx further based on a $9.50 check average. A differentiates itself by using real dishes, menu favorite is the Heirloom Tomato glass cups and metal flatware in an Tower, featuring fresh mozzarella, With brands such as Red Mango, attempt to minimize its carbon footprint. basil, field greens, sea salt, extra virgin FreshBerry and Tasti-D-Lite changing olive oil and a balsamic glaze. the sweet spot of fast casual dining, we thought we’d pay homage to 53. Xoco the concepts that provide indulgent Chicago / No. of units: 1 56. Elevation Burger delights in a variety of formats. From celebrity chef Rick Bayless Arlington, Va. / No. of units: 6 We start our list with ice cream comes Xoco (Mexican slang for In 2009, the first five Elevation Burger innovators Ben & Jerry’s, which recently “little sister”), a 40-seat eatery with a franchised locations opened and, as launched flavors such as Mission Marzipan, Maple Blondie and Triple menu of Mexican street food such as of January 2010, 45 locations had Caramel Chunk. And while ice cream Mexican hot chocolate, tortas, churros, been sold. Restaurants are planned made a strong showing in 2009, the empanadas and caldos (meal-in- for the markets of New York City; true winner of the dessert/yogurt/ a-bowl soups). Breakfast is served Coral Springs, Fla.; and Potomac, Md. smoothie category was frozen yogurt, daily until 10 a.m., tortas are served The first international units also were the sweet treat first made popular in after 11 a.m. and caldos are served sold with five locations set to open in the early 1980s. after 3 p.m. The restaurant also has Kuwait. The company is working on Cupcakes also rose in popularity during 2009. Because of this, we had been awarded Leadership in Energy several new franchise deals around to recognize the self-proclaimed and Environmental Design Gold the United States and in some limited world’s first cupcake bakery, Sprinkles certification. international markets. Cupcakes in Beverly Hills, Calif. These “sweet 16” brands, listed Boston Marke t alphabetically rather than by rank, 54. Boston Market stand out because of their upscale Golden, Colo. / No. of units: 530 atmospheres and quality ingredients, a Change was in the air for further testament to consumer demand Boston Market in 2009 as it for a unique dining experience — regardless of menu offerings. named F. Lane Cardwell, a 1. Ben and Jerry’s member of P.F. Chang’s China 2. Bittersweet: The Chocolate Café Bistro board since 1999, 3. Cefiore as its new CEO. The chain 4. Cold Stone also expanded its menu 5. Finale Desserterie & Café and formed a partnership 6. FreshBerry 7. Jamba Juice with American Airlines to 8. Maggie Moo’s offer sandwich and salad 9. Marble Slab options on select flights 10. Pinkberry for $10 per meal. To help 11. Planet Smoothie ease the economic pinch, Boston 12. Red Mango Market launched a two-kids-eat-free 13. Spoon Me promotion for families with children 14. Sprinkles Cupcakes 15. Tasti-D-Lite ages 14 and younger. 16. Tropical Smoothie Café FASTCASUAL.COM 15
  • 15. 57. Moe’s Southwest Grill 59. Shane’s Rib Shack 61. Baja Fresh Atlanta / No. of units: 400+ No. of units: 67 Cypress, Calif. / No. of units: 386 It’s been quite the year for Moe’s The year for Shane’s Rib Shack started Baja Fresh Mexican Grill began 2009 by Southwest Grill. In an AOL Business with the announcement of its sale opening a new location in San Jose, Calif., survey, Moe’s was named as the to Petrus Brands, which purchased and closed the year with the unveiling of next “It” concept by consumers. It both Shane’s and Planet Smoothie four new stores in Manhattan. In between, also made junior-sized burritos a from Raving Brands. Just one month Baja Fresh expanded into the Las Vegas permanent menu item and opened later, Shane’s opened a location in McCarran International Airport and its first prototypical “green” location. Khobar, Saudi Arabia, through a deal Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical The Williston, Vt., location has expected to bring 45 Planet Smoothie Center. Founded in 1990, Baja Fresh been Leadership in Energy and and Shane’s Rib Shack restaurants to operates under a philosophy it calls “live Environmental Design certified and six countries in the Middle East over fresh.” It offers only all-fresh ingredients features locally sourced building the next five years. In the U.S., Shane’s and goes as far as to eliminate the use of materials, low-flow toilets and a expanded into Georgia and South freezers, microwaves and can openers at Freeaire management system for the Carolina, and continues to lead the all of its stores. walk-in cooler. barbecue segment of fast casual dining. Moe’s Southwest Grill 62. PAUL Shack Croix, France / No. of units: 240 worldwide Shane’s Rib More than 300 French farmers plant produce on more than 8,650 acres for PAUL bakeries throughout the world. The first location opened in France in 1889. Menu items include country-style and fancy bread, croissants, pastries, cakes and desserts, snacks and sandwiches, and more than 5 million customers are served every month. PAUL has four locations in the United States — all 60. Penn in and around Miami. The shops are Station designed like old-fashioned bakeries East Coast and the bread is still prepared and Subs cooked in full view of the customers. Cincinnati, Ohio / No. of units: 212 58. Jimmy John’s Penn Station East Coast Subs rolled 63. Panda Express Champaign, ill. / No. of units: 970 Rosemead, Calif. / No. of units: 1,272 out five new Cold Deli Classic subs in Founder Jimmy John Liataud has 2009 to complement its current menu Panda Express launched its Wok Smart projected the sandwich chain will of twelve hot grilled-to-order subs. program in 2009 to educate guests grow to 1,000 locations by the summer Following market testing in Louisville, about the wide variety of healthy-eating of 2010. Differentiation and focused Ky., the new Cold Deli Classics was options available on the menu. Wok positioning helped sandwich chains rolled out systemwide in all 212 Penn Smart identifies 18 sides, entrees and such as Jimmy John’s grow in 2009. Station restaurants. Penn Station appetizers that are 250 calories or less One way the company sets itself apart president Craig Dunaway said early per serving. The launch of Wok Smart from other brands: It offers online results from the Louisville test back up tied in to last year’s menu labeling ordering to its more than 200,000 independent consumer research recently legislation passed in several states across Facebook fans through the social done by the chain. “Several customers the country. The legislation requires media Web site. The company also have told me that once they tried a cold chain restaurants to display nutritional continues to promote the convenience Italian sub, they ordered it that way a content for menu items. Panda Express of its menu offerings through a variety second and third time. That tells me also launched its Sweet Fire Chicken of delivery options. we’re on to something special,” he said. Breast menu item and its subsequent national advertising campaign. 16 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 16. 64. Fatburger program in April that includes staples sub for a co-worker, a friend who Santa Monica, Calif. / No. of units: 94 such as burrito bowls, tacos, salads was recently laid off, themselves or and fresh-pressed tortillas. “This is a anyone else. At the same time, Quiznos Fatburger has its sights set on big year for Panchero’s. We’re entering remained focused on expanding its expansion with six new stores set new markets which will make the affordable offerings by creating its Flex to open in the Los Angeles area in brand visible to more people than ever Plan, a tiered product development 2010 and more than 40 international before and through our social media strategy that allows for simultaneous locations to open over the next several strategies, we’ve gained fans in some of development of different products. years. The popular southern California our biggest markets as well as markets burger joint has 17 stores planned where we do not have a presence yet,” for Saudi Arabia with a first location 67. Pat & Oscar’s scheduled to open in 2010 in Riyadh; said founder Rodney Anderson. Carlsbad, Calif. / No. of units: 19 five scheduled in Kuwait; deals in place New menu items and a new interior for 30 stores in Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, 66. Quiznos design reflect some big changes made Jordan, Syria and Oman; and 15 Denver / No. of units: 4,500+ by Pat & Oscar’s in 2009. The new planned openings in Canada. Quiznos focused on providing its menu items were created by company customers with an affordable alternative executive chef Greg Schroeppel, and 65. Panchero’s Mexican Grill in 2009 as the country remained are part of a companywide initiative Coralville, iowa / No. of units: 56 gripped in a recession. The sandwich to bring in more exotic and seasonal Panchero’s opened 10 new locations franchise started a new promotion to flavors. The new menu is supported in 2009, including restaurants in New coincide with its survey that said seven by a new interior design, including Jersey, Maryland and California, in 10 workers have lost workplace perks an updated color scheme and new moving closer to its goal of having during the recession. The promotion, furniture. And Pat & Oscar’s executives 75 stores open by the end of 2010. called Toasty Toasty, allows customers say the changes have all been designed The franchise also added a catering to buy one of Quiznos’ sandwiches to revitalize the brand, employees and at full price and pay only $1 for a the guest experience. TOP TECH TREND FOR 2009: before the game to your app owners, when people are looking for food to take along the way. There are all kinds of things you can do MOBiLE APPS The killer tools for fast like that to push out special offers and one-time deals.” casual ordering and loyalty. By Jennifer Litz Early industry adopters have shown the app advantage in motion. Industry leader Chipotle Mexican Grill was one of the earliest adopters in the segment. The company made The smallest to the largest fast casual eateries started logging its ordering application available on the onto mobile ordering solutions for customers in 2009, and the Apple App Store in August 2009, after a momentum will continue as many more begin to use these one- false start earlier in the year (the server stop solutions to help customers find, order and pay for their food. had been overwhelmed by customer After all, convenience is king in our increasingly smart-phone- response, and crashed). The revamped based world. and much-praised mobile ordering app “With a mobile app, you have the opportunity to make gives iPhone and iPod Touch users the things simpler because you can identify the user a lot more ability to create their Chipotle order, accurately than you can (on the Web),” Jeff Scott, editor of place it at the Chipotle location of their app-rating Web site 148apps.com, said. “(You can tie) phones choice and also pay for their food directly to an account, so when a user has entered his credit card info, you from their device. Using location-based don’t need to ask for it again. An iPhone can also tell your location. technologies, customers also can quickly find You probably can’t get the accuracy of an apartment number, the nearest location. but you do have the closest cross streets, which they ask for a lot in “With over 40 million iPhone users and a high consumer demand ordering.” for delivery and takeout meals, mobile ordering is a tremendous Scott urges fast casual operators and developers to take opportunity for restaurants,” said Joseph Gagnon, chief executive advantage of push notification, which can alert app owners to officer of ordering solutions provider Exit41. “We expect our special deals. mobile applications to become an increasingly important way for “Let’s say the local baseball team has a big away game consumers to order food from their favorite restaurants — and a starting in three hours. You could push a notification timed right significant portion of our business in 2010.” FASTCASUAL.COM 17
  • 17. 68. The Counter He is responsible for leading the Seven Up Culver City, Calif. / No. of units: 23 growth of stores across the country. The brands reinventing the fast casual beverage sector The Counter currently has plans Cash-strapped customers in to open four new locations in the 71. Muscle Maker Grill 2009 were still willing to fork out California cities of Newport Beach, Woodbridge, N.J. / No. of units: 17 dough for truly nutritious grub from West Hollywood, and Torrance, and transparent companies offering Muscle Maker Grill went from one Houston, Texas. The company just food that was honest. Our list of top open unit in 2009 to 17, with another beverage companies — presented opened a location in Carlsbad that is 150 units sold. The menu features in alphabetical order — reflects the the first and only location to have a sandwiches, salads, wraps and panini implications and incarnations of that lounge component and separate lounge movement, including an emphasis designed to help customers build menu that is different than their on local and healthy foods and muscle and lose fat. Started by fitness- beverages. regular offerings. The lounge menu enthusiast Rod Silva in 1995, menu Starbucks gained traction in 2009 by includes parmesan cheese fries, a fried items include the Godfather, grilled realizing the gravity of the honest food goat cheese sandwich, fried olives movement. The company rebranded chicken breast on a bed of broccoli with garlic aioli, and adult spiked (or unbranded) two Seattle locations, and portobello mushrooms, roasted milkshakes. Starting in 2010, The renaming them 15th Avenue Coffee red peppers and low-fat mozzarella. & Tea, and Roy Street Coffee & Tea. Counter also is launching a Market Silva also was featured on a Fox The stores feature wine and beer, Selection program at all the locations Business segment discussing healthy eco-conscious designs, local DJs for in which each restaurant will offer entertainment and locally sourced menu items and its growth during seasonal and locally sourced menu items. baked goods. PJ’s Coffee of New recessionary times. Orleans also got a recent boost from establishing itself as uberlocal after 69. Togo’s Sandwiches 72. Which Wich company officials secured a two-year deal to position the brand as “The San Jose, Calif. / No. of units: 242 Dallas / No. of units: 101 Preferred Coffee of the New Orleans Togo’s is so sure of its Pastrami Saints.” Such community-minded From July to October, Which Wich led measures helped the brand grow after Sandwich that last year it offered the RestaurantChains.net list of the top months of flat sales. customers a money-back guarantee. 20 fastest-growing concepts. During the The continued focus on health The company also celebrated National also was highlighted newer beverage research period, the company opened 18 Pastrami Day by giving away a Mini stars such as tea. Ten Ren’s Tea Time, new locations. The sandwich chain also Classic Pastrami Sandwich to the originally based in Taiwan, opened joined the healthy dining initiative by locations in California, New York and first 100 guests at each location. adding its name to healthydiningfinder. Maryland in 2009. The brand’s sweet The promotion was designed to spot seems to be the increasingly com, a Web site that helps nutrition- reintroduce the pastrami sandwich to popular boba tea, a sugary libation conscious diners easily find restaurants its customers and to give them a taste made mostly from Japanese tea, offering healthy dining menu items. cream and tapioca balls. of Togo’s mini classics sandwich line. The company also celebrated its sixth 1. Caribou Coffee The company unveiled the line for a anniversary in December. 2. Peet’s Coffee & Tea limited time in November. The mini 3. PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans classics were sold for $2.99. 4. Seattle’s Best Coffee 5. Starbucks 73. Citrine New World Bistro 6. Ten Ren’s Tea Time Redwood City, Calif. / No. of units: 1 70. Wahoo’s Fish Tacos 7. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Santa Ana, Calif. / No. of units: 52 Global cuisine is the inspiration for Citrine New World Bistro. The Wahoo’s Fish Tacos set its aim at concept, owned by grocery chain the college crowd by opening new Safeway Inc., features a diverse menu locations on two new campuses, the of food and wine. Entrees include University of California, Irvine, and Cal Indian Vindaloo with Chicken, Baja State Bakersfield. “Wahoo’s has received California Fish Tacos and Caribbean an overwhelming response to our Pork Platter. The concept’s VP of recent franchise expansion plans,” said culinary exploration is Jeff Anderson, Tom Orbe, vice president of marketing, whose resume includes stints at responsible for franchises for Wahoo’s. Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio and the Wahoo’s appointed Orbe VP in 2009. Cyprus Club. 18 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 18. 74. CPK ASAP company approached Rising Roll 79. Sandella’s Flatbread Los Angeles / No. of units: 9 president Mike Lassiter and asked him No of units: 150+ worldwide A smaller version of California to put it in other office buildings. The In addition to opening its first location Pizza Kitchen, the company’s ASAP first Rising Roll Gourmet Express in Dubai, Sandella’s Flatbread opened locations are more for the dash-and- opened in early 2009 in Atlanta. up San Diego County in the United dine consumer still looking for a States for franchise opportunities quality meal. New menu items for 77. Bread & Company last year. The company also signed a ASAP locations include Moroccan Nashville, Tenn. / No. of units: 4 franchise deal for three restaurants in Chicken Salad, Tuscan White Bean Ohio. In 2009, Sandella’s opened six Bread & Company serves up fresh- Minestrone and the Cranberry Walnut new locations to in Houston; Dubai, baked bread at the concept’s four units Chicken Salad Sandwich. In 2009, a United Arab Emirates; Washington, and is so popular it has a cult-like franchisee also opened the company’s D.C.; Fargo, N.D.; Urbana, Ill.; and following in its hometown of Nashville. first fast casual restaurant on the Aliso Viejo, Calif. Fans rave about the fresh ingredients college campus of Hofstra University. and unusual bread, like its Iroquois Sandella’s Fla sandwich with Almond-Tarragon tbread 75. EVOS Chicken Salad on Cranberry Pecan Tampa, Fla. / No. of units: 7 Bread. The bread is the base for EVOS solidified its reputation as one the chain’s extensive menu, which of the country’s most environmentally includes the option of create-your- conscious franchises when Greenopia own sandwiches. recognized it for its efforts to be as “green” as possible and to keep its 78. Back Yard Burgers environmental impacts to a minimum. Nashville / No. of units: 120+ Greenopia is a directory to help At 27 years old, the better guide consumers looking to make burger chain is almost like a environmentally and socially conscious grandfather in the category purchases. In its review, Greenopia compared to some newer claims EVOS is “arguably the greenest upstarts. With new media partner burger chain in the U.S.” Paramore|Redd Online Marketing, the company recently relaunched its 80. Capriotti’s Web site and kicked off a social media Sandwich Shop 76. Rising Roll Gourmet Las Vegas / No. of units: 55 Atlanta / No. of units: 10 campaign. Via Facebook and Twitter, the company is aggressively marketing This gourmet sandwich chain started Rising Roll Franchising LLC plans to its brand to spread the word about its as a shop in the Little Italy area of launch an express version of the concept homemade style burger and chicken Wilmington, Del., more than 30 for airport, university and hospital sandwiches in an effort to engage loyal years ago. The concept found its locations. The idea to create an express fans and gain new ones. niche in roasting fresh, whole turkeys version came after an office management overnight for sandwiches. A successful Rising Roll Gourmet franchising program proved the chain was just as successful in Las Vegas as in its home state. Capriotti’s has expanded to 10 states and has plans to open franchises in 20 major cities across the United States within the next five years. FASTCASUAL.COM 19
  • 19. 81. Le Pain Quotidien 84. The Habit Burger Grill franchisees with an extensive training Brussels, Belgium / No. of units: 90+ worldwide irvine, Calif. / No. of units: 32 program and comprehensive operating Brussels-born Le Pain Quotidien is a The Habit Burger Grill recently added system. global bakery-and-sandwich concept its first drive-thru, but it’s unlike the that is spreading across the United traditional quick-service model. This 86. Suki Thai States, where it has 30 locations. This one is environmentally friendly, with environmentally conscious bakery/café solar panels to help offset traditional Noodle House Boulder, Colo. / No. of units: 1 sources organic and local ingredients energy sources. It makes sense that while incorporating green building a beach-born concept would care Suki Thai Noodle House features fast, designs into its stores. But it’s the bread about the earth. The company also fresh and healthy cuisine with a line of and baked goods, such as made-to- has a passion for its food, focusing on authentic Suki-style Thai noodle bowls. order Belgian-style waffles, that keep premium quality, taste and innovation. Just like the street-vendor style of food customers coming back. Technomic that inspired the concept, each bowl recently noted the chain was the leader is cooked to order in in store count with a growth rate of front of customers. 29.6 percent for the segment. This noodle house relies on innovative magnetic induction 82. Mad Greens cooktops to replicate Denver / No. of units: 8 the experience and The salad concept goes beyond healthy each bowl includes gourmet made-to-order salads to offer authentic Thai soups, panini and wine. Ahead of the vegetables and broth better-for-you eating curve, Mad Greens along with the protein has earned the “Best Healthy Lunch in of choice. Other Denver” award for three straight years. specialties include The chain is intent on adding at least papaya salad, seafood two locations in the coming year and salad, Pad Thai and recently purchased its first commercial Thai-style spring rolls. building for its latest opening. Future plans also include a revamped Web site with a nutrition calculator. 87. Wolfgang Puck Express Beverly Hills, Calif. / 83. Cheeseburger Bobby’s No. of units: 80+ Atlanta / No. of units: 5 The fast casual Cheeseburger Bobby’s is intent on end of Wolfgang expanding its gourmet burger concept. Puck’s fine-dining Le Pain Quotidien The 3-year-old company has two empire, Wolfgang units scheduled to open soon in its Puck Express brings home city, with Birmingham, Ala., the 85. Salad Creations the celebrity chef ’s French-inspired next target market. From there, the Coconut Creek, Fla. / No. of units: 49 modern cuisine to nontraditional, chain plans to open 50 more locations Salad Creations has grown to nearly high-traffic areas like malls and in the Southeast over the next few 50 units since its start seven years ago. airports. The cuisine is also affordable, years. Founded by the same people The chain is a nutritious and quick with lunch and dinner hovering behind pizza buffet concept Stevi B’s, alternative to traditional fast food, with around the $10 price point. Wolfgang Cheeseburger Bobby’s borrows from made-to-order salads. Guests choose Puck also was the first celebrity chef to the casual dining model, offering mints from scores of farm-fresh vegetables, recognize the importance of fast casual to just-seated customers and pager- fruits and cheeses as well as a variety dining. coasters to notify customers when of proteins. The company supports its their order is ready. 20 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 20. 91. Le Boulanger Sunnyvale, Calif. / No. of units: 17 Le Boulanger is like Panera Bread’s older sibling with more discerning taste. This bakery-café concept also sells fresh-made soups, salads and espresso drinks, but it also has a more worldly palate — offering flavors like curry, eggplant and hoisin sauce — and is very anchored in its California community, offering local youth group tours of its main commissary. Swich 92. Swich New York City / No. of units: 2 Pei Wei Asian Diner The concept is only four years 88. Pei Wei old, but its quirky attitude and Scottsdale, Ariz. / No. of units: 150+ plethora of flavors have helped crack the most competitive Sales slowed for this pan-Asian fast of markets. Swich’s inventive casual in 2009, though its 2008 pressed sandwiches use premium numbers were some of the best in ingredients like Haas avocados, the segment at $278 million. But Gruyere and olive tapenade, but the the restaurant did comparatively sandwiches they fill go for $6 to $9. better than competitors through The company’s stylish, minimalist new innovative menu items presentation extends from its green- such as an egg-noodle-based minded dining room to catering Japanese Chile Beef Ramen and clients like Martha Stewart Living social media outreach — the Omnimedia and The Food Network. company’s Facebook page alone has more than 44,000 followers. 93. The Cheese Course Weston, Fla. / No. of units: 4 89. The Pita Pit Coeur d’Alene, idaho / No. of units: 100+ 90.Village Burger Bar This European-style cheese shop/ West Village (Dallas), Texas / No. of units: 3 bistro has recently doubled in size. International healthy pita chain The The bistro’s cheese-centric menu Pita Pit has gotten top marks in many There are apparently enough people features its retail products in delicious business publications for its growth. who crave martinis with their meat sandwiches like Taleggio cheese steak That’s because this growing concept patties that this literal burger bar and Applewood bacon with goat has painted itself as an accessible concept has gotten great buzz. The Gouda. Education is a big component sandwich eatery with a Lebanese spin. Village Burger Bar serves creative of the company’s success: Each store Ethnic-minded eaters can get good- burgers from the classic standard to boasts an on-site cheesemonger for-you toppings like baba ghanoush turkey and goat cheese with dried ready to answer customers’ questions. or hummus, while more traditional cranberries, along with sides from fries Cheese tastings and courses also are palates can enjoy a familiar lunch with to sweet potato strings. But it places available. Could this be the next phase fewer carbs from the thinner bread. The just as much emphasis on its drink of fast casual dining? brand capitalizes on its conscientious menu, which includes everything from approach with a reduced-cal cinnamon apple martinis to mango- “Resolution Solution” menu and LEED flavored margaritas. certification for many of its stores. FASTCASUAL.COM 21
  • 21. 94. The Loop Pizza Grill Jacksonville, Fla. / No. of units: 20 This family oriented pizza-burger- shakes concept was also family founded by Mike and Terry Schneider. They’ve grown their Florida-based company slowly over the past 26 years, adding new menu items and service details to their guiding philosophy of quality, fast cuisine for people of all ages and palates. 95. Costa Vida Salt Lake City, Utah / No. of units: 23+ Obika Mozzarella Bar This rapidly expanding chain is capitalizing on the interest in Latin 97. Naples Flatbread & 99. Obika Mozzarella Bar flavor profiles with great success. In Wine Bar New York City / No. of units: 1 Naples, Fla. / No. of units: 2 Obikà Mozzarella Bar, located in New pushing cuisine that boasts a “coastal lifestyle,” the concept eschews the This unique restaurant concept York City’s IBM Atrium, features a burrito-centric menu to include fresh combines the best elements of fast menu of fresh mozzarella cheese and flavors like broiled fish and shrimp casual, casual and fine dining with sliced meats and fish. And in 2009, it tacos garnished with tropical fruit and counter service at lunch and full was expected to gross $2 million, said served in handmade tortillas. service at dinner. Its upscale interior Anthony Fauci, managing partner of features a waterfall with an HDTV Innovative Hospitality Concepts. shining through at the bar, and a 96. Crazy Pita Woodstone Pizza oven is seen by 100. Cosi Rotisserie & Grill guests as they walk in the door. In Deerfield, ill. / No. of units: 100+ Henderson, Nev. / No. of units: 1 addition to Neapolitan pizza, grilled panini and gourmet macaroni and Despite a tough few years, Cosi In 2009, Crazy Pita’s CEO Mehdi continues to impress diners with its Zarhloul managed to increase revenue cheese, the menu features 40 wines by the glass and more than 30 craft beers. healthy menu. In 2009, the company by 20 percent over the previous year announced its intent to stay an by introducing familiar specials with independent company. The chain Mediterranean flavors such as lamb chops, lamb shank and homemade 98. Bombay Bowl had reviewed several proposals for Centennial, Colo. / No. of units: 1 financing or an acquisition, but lentil soup. The company also concluded staying independent offers introduced quality alcoholic and Spices are key to this fresh Indian fast casual and Bombay Bowl uses the best way to maximize shareholder non-alcoholic beverages at reasonable value. It also was named the best fast prices. During the year, Zarhloul them all to create exotic and flavorful dishes. The restaurant’s menu includes casual restaurant for kids by Parents focused on Web and print coupons, Magazine, beating out Corner Bakery community involvement and charity the Vindaloo Bowl, featuring Chili Lime Chutney, and the Saag Bowl Cafe, Fazoli’s, Noodles & Company support. The company has plans to and Taco Del Mar. open 20 additional locations by 2015. with Yogurt Raita Chutney. For customers with allergen issues or those seeking nutritional information, the Bombay Bowl Web site features allergen ingredient information and a nutritional calculator. 22 FASTCASUAL.COM
  • 22. Q&A Alan Hixon president – Mooyah Burgers & Fries Alan Hixon joined the Mooyah team as president in 2009. Since then, he has spearheaded the effort to strengthen the brand through in-store redesigns that reflect a more interactive and creative customer experience. Mooyah’s clientele range in age and ethnicity is a testament to the menu category’s broad appeal. We asked Hixon a few questions about his time at Mooyah and, of course, how he likes his burger. — Valerie Killifer Before you accepted the When you first got to Mooyah, position at Mooyah, you had what were some of the biggest several conversations with challenges you saw and how founders Todd Istre and Rich did you set about tackling those Hicks. What came out of those challenges? preliminary talks? I think that the first course of action Well, I met Rich at the very first Fast was to do what we discussed needed to Casual summit in Pasadena, Calif., five be done, and that was create a unique years ago. I ran into him in Denver at identity for the brand and improve the 2008 Summit. He asked me what the level of magic taking place within my plans were for the future and told the four walls. The idea was to create me about this new brand that he was something fun and truly give the brand building. an identity that made people walk away and say, “that place was cool.” When we got back to Texas, he looked me up and invited me to meet him One of the first steps was to pull the at one of the Mooyah restaurants. creative team together and determine We talked about Rich’s goals for the the direction that we wanted to go. brand and what I was interested in There were a number of things missing doing. The conversation went well and from the overall environment. We just he invited me to come to Dallas and really started out with a clean slate meet with him and Todd. We talked and said there are no barriers here. about our business philosophies, our Our mindset was “let’s have some values, the type of company we would fun and create something that will be like to build, individual goals and so sustainable and scalable.” forth. The three of us really hit it off (cont. on next page) and ultimately felt that we could build something great together. They wanted to take the brand to a new level and said, “We’d love to have you come on board if you are interested.” FASTCASUAL.COM 23
  • 23. Going from burritos to burgers One thing that I must have been a strange shift. noticed was the How was that transition for you? diverse clientele at Mooyah. What Basically, the product itself was do you attribute different, but the fundamentals of to its variety of the restaurant business are the same customers? anywhere you go. It is all about food quality, guest service, and the The product appeals environment inside the four walls. to such a broad That’s ultimately what we are all customer base. When selling. It was not a shift with you look at the in- respect to mentality. store experience, it’s about providing Those of us who have been in the an experience business for a while have worked with equally appealing to One thing I found early on as I talked different brands that feature different everyone. to customers and employees, and core products. It’s not as if (burritos) learned more about what was driving were all I knew. It was really more The product appeal presented an the Mooyah engine, was that many about understanding the burger interesting challenge in that it required people were wild about the fries. We customer more intimately. There were us to make sure all the changes were as much a fry concept as we some specific idiosyncrasies that I we made inside the four walls also were a burger concept. I found that needed to better understand. appealed to a broad demographic. fascinating. The fries are incredible. What appeals to a 7-year-old kid I did not eat fries before I became What were some of the things might not appeal to a 27-year-old or a involved in Mooyah. It just wasn’t that impressed you about 47-year-old, and we had to spend a lot something that was part of my regular Mooyah? of time thinking about that. diet. In the beginning, Rich and I ate a lot together in the stores. He would I thought the product was awesome. I What’s your favorite Mooyah meal? order fries and I wouldn’t with the thought they had nailed that and my intent of just having a few of his to hat was off to them for doing a great I’ve got my regular order: lettuce, get a read on the quality that we were job. And I was impressed with the tomato, mustard, American cheese delivering. Over a period of time, I had team. It was just a matter of taking the and jalapeños. I do have a shake to start getting my own order because culture and magic inside the four walls occasionally — especially if I’m with I was eating too many of his. Now it’s to a new level and creating an identity my kids. I’m a chocolate shake drinker. something I can’t eat enough of. that would truly differentiate the brand The Oreo shake is my son’s favorite. He within the segment. gets that one all the time. 24 FASTCASUAL.COM