August 26th, 2019

AI Technology Driving Efficiency in Fast Food

Posted in Consumer Trends, Restaurants, Technology

AI Technology shows strength in fast food testing

AI Technology in Restaurants

Photo courtesy of nrn.com

AI technology has been a conversation starter for some time now. In most cases, it’s in the format of “someday,” or “won’t it be crazy when…?”

Well it looks like that “when” is now. With impressive advances in AI technology over the last couple of years, companies have begun testing in different markets. One of the most popular platforms to test AI technology is currently in fast food restaurants.

Let’s look at how AI is changing the way we interact with food.

AI Technology in Food Service

As of now, four major players in the fast food arena (McDonald’s, Good Times, Chipotle, and Sonic) are either testing or in the process of implementing AI technology into their restaurants. But it’s not in the format one might expect.

AI Technology Fast Food

Photo courtesy of nrn.com

Instead of using the tech for cooking, packaging, or other labor-based skills, it’s being utilized in so-called “soft-skills,” specifically order taking. This use is why this type of AI is dubbed “conversational AI.”

How is Conversational AI Being Used?

Good Times is focusing on using this technology in drive through windows. Its system, lovingly named “Holly,” has shown to be very adept at her job. In the six months of her operation, Holly has reduced customer wait time by seven seconds and her intuitive up-selling has shown a measurable increase in check averages.

AI Technology

Photo courtesy of hospitalitytech.com

Chipotle has found success with their intuitive telephone ordering technology while Sonic begins testing on their drive through system this year. McDonald’s, however, is showing an aggressive push with a slightly different tech. By the end of this year they will have increased the implementation of their AI driven interactive menu boards from 700 to 8,000 restaurants nationwide. The biggest difference in their system is that the boards are not voice operated, but intuitive based on the customers choices.

What’s the Benefit of AI Technology?

The push for AI is coming from the operators’ need to:

  1. Decrease labor turnover
  2. Increase speed of service
  3. Increase accuracy
  4. Allow employees to focus on food quality

By letting AI systems take over ordering and basic customer service functions, employees are freed up to focus on food quality and speed of service. As of now the companies claim that the tech will not replace human employees, instead, it will help them do their jobs better.

There are some additional benefits of AI. It does not get tired, or angry, or sick. Its accuracy is nearly flawless, and is always “friendly,” even when being yelled at.

Limitations

AI in Fast Food

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

At this point some kinks are still being worked out. It’s incredibly important that the technology can actually understand the customer. Therefore, the speech detection portion of the software is absolutely crucial. Regional dialects and accents can add other variables. The adaptive learning portion of the program is essential in overcoming these limitations.

Fail safes have been implemented to help in some of these categories. For example, at any point during a conversation a customer can ask Holly to speak with a “human” or “employee.” However, in the time of its activity only ~1% of customers have chosen to do so. This shows not only Holly’s effectiveness, but also the adaptability of Good Time’s customers to changing technology.

Hello Future World!

It’s official, the future is here. Conversational AI now holds real estate in our pockets, homes, and restaurants. It’s safe to say that the only direction is forward when it comes to AI tech., so we’d better be ready for the changes. What an exciting time to be alive!

Cheers!

 

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August 12th, 2019

BBQ is King on Summer Menus

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

Between LTO’s and Menu Updates, BBQ Reigns

BBQ is King

Summer is in full swing and according to menus nationwide, BBQ is king!

Aside all the frozen cocktails, fruit-focused summer salads, and swimsuit friendly bites, you’ll find smoky barbecue options hitting the mark. This trend isn’t simply relegated to full-service restaurants, it’s occurring across all market segments. Just check the menus…

BBQ on Summer Menus

Fast Food

BBQ Trends

Photo courtesy of chikfila.com

It looks like the fast food segment is all for the push to savory BBQ flavors. Chick-fil-A recently launched their Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Chicken Sandwich, while KFC has re-released their Smoky Mountain BBQ and Georgia Gold options. Across the board, burger staples like McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and Jack in the Box are all featuring a seasonal BBQ option. Even Arby’s is on board with their Bourbon BBQ Sandwich selection.

Quick Service

BBQ Flavors

Photo courtesy of chewboom.com

QSR businesses are known for their trend forward ways and menu flexibility. It’s part of what makes them special. So, it’s no surprise to see BBQ options on these menus as well. Starbucks is taking their chance on a Honey BBQ Sriracha Chicken Sandwich, while Boston Market is going with a re-release of the Bourbon Bacon Rotisserie Chicken. MOD Pizza is blending pineapple with BBQ on their limited edition “Fred Pizza,” featuring Canadian bacon, roasted pineapple, red onion, and a sweet BBQ sauce swirl.

Full Service

BBQ on Menus

Photo courtesy of Chilis.com

Ruby Tuesdays, known for their epic salad bar, is upping their game with a Hickory Bourbon Bacon Sirloin. Chili’s has gone even further, pushing their BBQ options onto a new Smokehouse Combo menu, where you can mix and match choices of smoked brisket, cheesy bacon BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs, and smoked sausages. Outback Steakhouse has found legs in the BBQ trend with options like the Aussie Twisted Ribs and the BBQ Pork Porterhouse.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire!

And these flavor trends are hot! It’s no coincidence that BBQ is King on national menus. We saw massive growth with BBQ flavors last year, and 2019 doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. So, don’t fall behind, give the people what they want with unique new BBQ flavors and pairings.

Cheers!

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March 3rd, 2019

Time to Re-Think Chinese Food

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants

It’s a New Era for Chinese Food

And it’s really stepping its game up

Chinese Food

For a long time, we in the states have associated Chinese food with the overly sweet, oily, and often deep-fried mess that comes from local restaurants. You know the types, they often throw the words “Jade,” “Garden,” or “Dragon” in their name to feign authenticity.

Luckily, times are changing. With the increase in culinary exploration currently happening, we’re seeing a re-birth of truly delicious Chinese restaurants. These purveyors reach back to the traditions of Cantonese and Sichuan cooking, using locally available ingredients and complementing them with savory sauces, spicy rubs, and umami rich glazes.

So let’s spotlight 3 restaurants changing what we think Chinese food should be.

Chinese Food in a New Light

Hop Alley – Denver, CO

Chef Tommy Lee, a Denver native, ventured into his second restaurant business with Hop Alley. His first spot, Uncle, is a well-renown noodle and Ramen bar in Denver.

With Hop Alley, however, he went from focusing on a single item (noodles), to developing a delicious and diverse menu of classic Chinese dishes with modern twists. The menu is especially conscious of using local products. The Cumin Lamb made with Colorado lamb ribs exemplifies this.

Modern Chinese Food

Photo Courtesy of Westword.com

The Char Siu (Chinese BBQ) Pork Shoulder and Sichuan Potatoes with fermented black bean sauce convey the traditional spirit of Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine. The main 2 regions we unwittingly reference when we speak of Chinese food. But more importantly, they do so without dumbing down the quality and complexity of what makes these foods special.

Duck Duck Goat – Chicago, IL

Bravo’s Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard has certainly made the most of her post-television life. Opened in 2016, Duck Duck Goat is Chef Izard’s 3rd restaurant, and personally, my favorite. DDG combines just the right blend of tradition, modern technique, and whimsy on the menu making it an unforgettable experience.

New Chinese Food

Picture courtesy of Chicagomag.com

The Char Siu Bao (there’s that Char Siu popping up again) are perfectly savory and chewy, acting as a terrific appetite warm up. Her menu further walks the tight rope of tradition with items like Wood-Fired Chicken Hearts with a sesame horseradish sauce, Sichuan Eggplant with goat sausage, and a fit-for-a-king whole Peking Duck with mandarin pancakes and an assortment of sweet, salty, and spicy Chinese sauces.

If DDG is not on your short list of Chicago restaurants, it definitely needs to be.

Wu Chow – Austin, TX

Everyone knows Austin is a culinary beacon for delicious Texas style BBQ. But what many folks outside this one-of-a-kind city don’t know is that it’s also a mecca for amazing Asian cuisine. Tyson Cole’s Uchi, Otoko from Chef Yoshi Okai, Thai Kun from Chef Paul Qui, and the plethora of Tatsu-Ya restaurants exemplify the breadth of delicious Asian cuisine in the city.

But not to be forgotten is the stand out hot spot of downtown Austin, Wu Chow. Executive Chef Ji Peng Chen brings a remarkably unique and delicious menu to life, highlighting familiar Chinese favorites and unknown oddities side by side in a winning tableau.

Chinese Food

Image Courtesy of atasteofkoko.com

The traditional soup dumplings (Xiaolongbao), made with pork shoulder and concentrated pork broth are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Plus, it’s nice to get a little walk-through of the proper soup-dumpling procedure before you eat (dip in vinegar, place on spoon, bite a hole and suck out some soup, then eat the rest in one bite). For a nod to Texas, Chef Chen offers Wok-Tossed Texas Okra. Similar in preparation to dry fried green beans, the okra is made with ginger, Thai chili peppers, and a delicious seasoning mix. This is by far one of my favorite dishes.

For more abstract but delicious items try the Seafood Bird’s Nest, the hot and spicy Striped Bass, or the Chicken and Taro Egg Rolls. Really, you can’t go wrong.

Xièxiè

Thanks for reading along. I hope this article motivates you to go try out some new and unique Chinese food in your local area. If you know of any restaurants doing something special, be sure to let us know in the comments.

Cheers!

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October 29th, 2018

3 Burger Chains on the Rise

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

These burger chains are smashing competition

Who says there are already enough burger chains out there?

According to FSR Magazine, there are at least 3 burger chains out there defying the dreary odds of success facing many brick and mortar restaurants today. In fact, they are thriving and poised for growth for years to come.

Burger Chains

1. Umami Burger

With 22 current units and another 40 planned for 2019, Umami Burger is positioned for long-term success. One move it’s making to ensure this continued growth is by capitalizing on global markets, like Japan.

With plans to extend to Mexico, UAE, and Qatar (the second and third of these being locations of major U.S. military bases), Umami Burger plans to deeply entrench its global presence.

Another factor playing into their prosperity is the exclusive partnership they have with Impossible Foods, maker of the ever popular Impossible Burger. This impossibly craveable vegetable-based burger patty has become extremely popular with vegetarians and carnivores alike. And with backing from restaurant and nightlife group sbe, well known for their work with Chef Jose Andres’ Bazaar, the sky seems to be the limit.

Trends in Burger Chains

2. Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

The name says it all. Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar is proving to its competitors that it’s a force to be reckoned with.

BD’s turned heads when it recorded 13 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales, which would have, realistically, gone for 14 if it weren’t for the detrimental effects of Hurricane Florence. Multiple locations were forced to close for 7 days due to the storm, but even with this catastrophe, BD’s still managed to decline only 0.7%.

With 33 current units and another 10 planned for 2019, BD’s remains firmly entrenched in the thick of their success with no signs of stopping. With newly minted locations in Georgia and South Carolina, Bad Daddy’s is building the makings of a permanent fixture in the burger market.

2019 Best Burger Chains

3. Bareburger

Bareburger is working to change the standard of what we expect from a burger restaurant. With a focus on sustainable farming practices and a menu comprised of over 1/3 vegetarian options, Bareburger is raising the bar of green practices.

These services have not gone unnoticed. The chain currently hosts 40 domestic locations, with 10 more on the horizon for 2019, plus restaurants in UAE, Tokyo, and Germany.

Bareburger has also diversified by making delivery service a major focus of it’s business model, with certain locations (aptly named “Bare Bones”) operating as delivery only models. It’s innovations like these that ensure Bareburger will remain relevant as it plans to launch another 10 stores in 2019.

That’s it for this week’s installment. Be sure to drop a comment below and let us know what unique/craveable things are happening in burger chains near you.

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October 15th, 2018

BBQ Sauce Trends in 2018

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants, Trends

2018 Shows Growth in BBQ Sauce Categories

BBQ is a staple of all cultures, in lots of different ways.

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We’re all familiar with the BBQ styles of the South, like Memphis, Texas, and Kansas City, which are ubiquitous with the American style of barbecue. But now, we’re also seeing regions like Florida and California get noticed for their particular style.

Outside of the U.S., Asia has a long history of cooking using the barbecue method, and the word barbecue itself stems from the Taino term, barbacoa. And let’s not forget about the unique BBQ styles of the Native Americans and the Maori of New Zealand, who bury their food on beds of hot stones, covered with wet tarps and earth. This allows for a low and slow cooking style, complete with plenty of smoke.

Today we’re going to investigate the up and coming flavor trends in BBQ sauces in the U.S. Whether you like to slather on the sauce while cooking, dip after the food is done, or go Korean style with fermented sweet and spicy sauces, we’ve got you covered.

2018 BBQ Sauce Trends

Spicy

homemade-barbecue-sauce-sweet-and-spicy

Photo courtesy of JessicaGavin.com

It’s no surprise, even in the world of BBQ, consumers are looking for sauces that bring the heat. According to Restaurant Business Magazine, year over year growth of jalapeno-based BBQ sauces is averaging a 16.7% increase.

Chipotle BBQ has increased 79% on menus since 4th quarter of 2017 according to Provisioner Online. According to Diane Kelter, Mintel International’s food-service analyst, “Complex flavor combinations that provide a sweet heat combo, or a smoky sweet combo, will continue to drive more innovation in the category.”

Mustard

The secret is out, mustard-based BBQ sauces are really good. Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce, a mustard and vinegar sauce with plenty of brown sugar, has paved the way for broad-based introduction.

KFC rolled out their “Georgia Gold” sauce in 2017 with great reception. This take on Carolina Gold style riffs heavier on the sweet side, using honey over brown sugar, therefore making it more palatable to a larger demographic.

Trader Joe’s and French’s were quick to jump on the trend, creating their own branded mustard-based BBQ sauces. The next step will be seeing spicy variations of mustard sauces, which have started popping up in small restaurants and food parks, but not yet in the mainstream chains.

Korean BBQ

It just wouldn’t be a 2018 trend analysis if we didn’t talk about the Asian influence.

Hot Sauce

If it seems like you’re seeing Asian food everywhere, it’s probably because you are. The deep, rich flavors and complex aromatics of Asian cuisine drive taste buds wild and leave insatiable cravings for more.

In BBQ, gochujang has proliferated quite well. The salty, spicy, umami rich profile of this fermented bean paste is a perfect addition to the sweet/smoky bases of most BBQ sauces. Many restaurants, like Chi’Lantro out of Austin, TX, hide gochujang in their generically named sauces (i.e. Gangnam, Korean BBQ, Spicy Asian), making it more approachable for less exposed palates.

According to the NPD Group, the amount of Korean BBQ sauce shipped to U.S. independent chains and micro chains grew by 120% in 2017. I don’t expect to see that slow down anytime soon. If you don’t believe me, go try some. It’s delicious.

Close

That’s it for this week’s blog. Keep an eye out for new BBQ trends as they emerge share with us what you find.

Cheers!

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August 27th, 2018

2018 Pizza Industry Review – Pt. 2

Posted in Consumer Trends, Pizza, Product Innovation, Restaurants, Trends

Enhanced ordering, & new menu items

Catch-Up

Welcome back friends. Let’s do a quick catch-up session here.

Last blog we talked about the 2018 Pizza Industry, focusing on consumer preferences (convenience, quality, affordability), national chain vs. independent restaurant stats, and international growth.

Today, we’ll cover new menu trends and enhanced ordering with a spotlight on new tech.

Menu Trends

2018 is the year of personalization. Customers are looking for unique toppings, signature pies, and the ability to make whatever wacky concoction pops into their mind (looking at you, unicorn pizza). This has led to an expansion in toppings held on the line for many restaurants (think Brussels sprouts, clams, and brisket).

2018 Pizza Trends

Photo Courtesy of Teen Vogue

This love for customization is also a contributing factor to the success of fast casual pizza restaurants like Blaze and Mod. Additionally, these restaurants are quite popular with guests looking for healthier options or suffering from allergies and intolerances. They have many offerings to help avoid triggers and amp up the health quotient while still creating a delicious personal pie.

Finally, Detroit style pizza has found a proper following and is trickling across the nation. Most major cities now offer Detroit style, which is a deep dish pizza made in a rectangular pan. Its caramelized edges and thick, chewy dough have been turning heads and gaining a stable of fans for good reason.

Enhanced Ordering

As we discussed in the consumer needs section on the previous post, technology and ordering convenience are major factors in the customer’s restaurant choice. With 69% of internet users choosing the online ordering option per Emarketer, it’s imperative for pizza restaurants to not only adopt this measure, but make it convenient and easy as well.

pexels-photo-280453

Hand in hand with ease of ordering is efficient delivery. Customers want a fresh, hot pizza delivered to them within minutes of submitting the order, and, as it turns out, they prefer that delivery to be directly from the restaurant, rather than a third party service like GrubHub or DoorDash.

Pizza restaurants are also looking into new technology to help with faster delivery. Domino’s, for example, has developed proprietary technology that allows consumers to order pizza in multiple convenient ways (including through Twitter, Zero-Click ordering, the AnyWare app, and into the future with natural voice). They’ve even gone as far as to commission a line of automated vehicles complete with built-in pizza ovens that will be capable of baking a freshly made pizza en route to your home.

Conclusion

2018 Pizza Trends

That’s a wrap for the 2018 Pizza Industry Review. With all that’s happening around technological innovation, I can’t wait to see what the landscape looks like for 2019.

Be sure to comment about what you’ve seen or anticipate seeing in the future of pizza. The only limit is your imagination (see: Unicorn Pizza…).

Cheers!

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July 30th, 2018

BJ’s See Huge Rise in 2nd Quarter

Posted in news, Restaurants

Same Store Sales Increased 5.6%

BJs Brewhouse

Things are looking bright for BJ’s Restaurants Inc. The casual dining chain based out of Huntington Beach, CA showed a profit of 76% in the second quarter of 2018.

BJ’s associating this spike in revenue with its recently implemented Slow Roast, Daily Brewhouse specials, and off-site delivery programs. Complemented by an ever popular customer loyalty club, BJ’s believes it can expand upon the current successes and parlay them into future growth.

Restaurant Sales

In addition to the overall profit, 42 of the organization’s 200 restaurants posted daily sales records.

For the fans of BJ’s roots, don’t worry, there will be no forgetting the deep dish pizzas that brought them to where they are today. In fact, as a part of the new Daily Brewhouse specials, BJ’s is offering half off any large deep-dish pizza on Mondays. Now that’s a deal anyone can get behind.

Chain Restaurant Sales

We’ll be watching as BJ’s continues to experiment with new menu offering sand updated flavors.

 

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May 21st, 2018

Loro Restaurant Review

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Restaurants, Reviews, Trends

Loro Debuts in South Austin

Loro Restaurant Review

If you live in Austin, and have not been hiding under a rock for the past 6 months, you’ve probably heard that Chef Tyson Cole (Uchi/Uchiko) and Aaron Franklin (Franklin BBQ) have teamed up to open Loro, an Asian smokehouse, in South Austin. If you don’t live in Austin, you probably should. Or at least come visit us for the food. It’s worth it.

Situated on South Lamar Blvd, across from the local favorite Black Sheep Lodge, Loro is presented as a rustic/chic Minka with layers of exposed wood, grand windows and skylights providing ample sunshine, and sprawling tables and counters promoting community dining and interactivity.

Austin Dining

Wisely, Loro has minimized staff and wait times by employing batch cocktails and fast-casual style counter ordering complete with GPS-based table trackers, allowing the food runners to find you anywhere in the restaurant. Say goodbye to table tents and card holders! And since we’re talking about cocktails, don’t sleep on the Gin and Tonic Boozy Slushie, it’s perfect on a summer day in Texas.

Loro Restaurant Austin

The menu is a unique hybrid of BBQ (smoked brisket) and Asian flavors (papaya salad, Chili aioli, Thai herbs), which merry in a surprisingly delicate way. This is where I feel Loro makes it’s name. When I first read of the Loro concept, I admit I was hesitant. Aside from the powerhouse names involved, it seemed like a riff off the already popularized Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (a personal favorite of mine). However, while Kemuri lives in a land of deep, bold flavors, Loro exists on a plane of subtle, complex flavors interspersed with dramatic, smoky low tones, for a completely different dining experience.

Loro Reviews

There were some clear standouts the menu, including the sweet/savory Kettle Corn (with burnt ends and togarashi), the beautifully displayed Char Siew Pork Shoulder Bowl, and the unforgettable Malaysian Chicken Bo Ssam. Seriously, the Bo Ssam. Get the Bo Ssam. Did you catch that? Bo Ssam! You won’t regret it. Just thinking about that juicy meat and the yellow curry-yuzu vinaigrette makes my mouth water, it’s Pavlovian really… But I digress.

Austin Restaurant Reviews

My two knocks on the menu would be the Texas sweet corn, which was underwhelming in flavor and seasoning, and the Chicken Karaage, which looked beautiful, but was missing the defining crunch that makes Karaage more than just fried chicken.

Restaurants Austin

Overall, the quality, flavor, and creativity of the menu shines through and makes Loro an excellent addition to the unique culinary landscape that defines Austin. With reasonable menu prices (the most expensive items on the menu sit at $18, while the average cost of a plate is $10.18) and an ultra-casual dining style, Loro also bucks the elitist dining trend, instead choosing to embrace curious eaters from all walks of life. I’ll raise my Apple Scotch Sour to that!

Loro Restaurant Review

Be sure to chime in on the comments section with your thought’s on Loro. Until next time…

Cheers!

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April 23rd, 2018

Sergio’s Cuban Eyes Fast Casual

Posted in Consumer Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants

Sergio’s Cuban Cafe & Grill Looks Towards Fast-Casual for the Future

Cuban Fast Casual

Photo Courtesy of shop.fiu.edu

As we’ve mentioned before in our blogs, fast-casual dining is not going anywhere. It gives chef’s and restaurateur’s an opportunity to provide fresh, high-quality food at lower prices due to reduced overhead costs. Sergio’s Cuban Cafe & Grill of Miami is the most recent entrant into the category.

Cuban Food

Photo Courtesy of sergioscuban.com

Carlos Gazitua, the CEO of Sergio’s, knew three years ago when planning the launch of their 6th location, it would be the last full-service restaurant. Gazitua cites rising rent prices and economics as the prime reasons to steer away from full-service and into fast-casual.

Sergio’s will also fill a hole in the fast-casual market for Cuban food. Leveraging the strength of their restaurant reputation, Sergio’s fast-casual will be able to launch with the power of their brand identity to help them capitalize on a thriving industry.

Cuban Food

Photo Courtesy of sergioscuban.com

Hoping to be the “Chipotle” of Cuban food, their bowl-centric menu features bold flavors like Mojo pork, Ropa Vieja, chimi-churri, and spicy habanero sauce. Contrasted with healthful choices such as cauliflower rice, boiled yucca, and lean ground turkey, Sergio’s is working to offer plenty of flavorful options while adding nutrient density to an often rich, heavy cuisine.

With site locations like Denver, Texas, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. slated for development, we’ll be keeping an eye on Sergio’s growth and look forward to a nearby location for taste testing.

What other Cuban fast casuals have you come across? Let us know in the comments section below.

Cheers!

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February 26th, 2018

Mediterranean Fast-Casual on the Rise

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

Mediterranean Cuisine Shows Continued Growth in the Fast-Casual Market

food-salad-healthy-vegetables

Fast-casual restaurants continue to gain steam as their popularity with multiple demographics holds strong. By focusing on quality ingredients within a limited, often chef-driven menu, combined with a lower overhead cost of standard brick-and-mortar establishments, fast-casual creates an opportunity to sell delicious, high quality food at reasonable prices.

Within this market, we are seeing Mediterranean cuisine thrive. With fresh ingredients, hearty options for both vegetarians and carnivores, and a continued nationwide interest in the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, the food of places like Greece, Israel, and Turkey are grasping the palates of customers nationwide and not letting go.

Restaurants like Gyroville, who have recently expanded to Ecuador, Taim, which extends from the Chipotle leadership and is set to open its 5th location, and Sajj Mediterranean opening its 8th location, exemplify the new wave of menu focused fast-casual Mediterranean restaurants. Combine these with the already existing trailblazers such as Garbanzo, Zoe’s Kitchen, and Noon Mediterranean (formerly Verts), which focus more heavily on customization, and you can see a strong pattern of flavor-first concepts taking a strong hold in an already crowded marketplace.

pexels-photo-407293

Drivers of these establishments include on-trend flavors like harissa, preserved lemon, and za’ataar. The common link between these items is their unique depth of flavor stemming from ingredients or procedures uncommon to the average American diner. This dissociation will not last long though, especially at the current rate of growth in the Mediterranean food market.

There’s still plenty to taste and explore in this cuisine, and hopefully it’s continued popularity will drive some of the even more ambiguous items, such as Cholent and Magiritsa, into the spotlight.

Until then, we’ll keep our eyes open and tasting spoons ready.

Cheers!

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