Why Diners are Visiting These Hot Casual Dining Concepts Instead of Chili’s and Applebee’s

You’re in luck data hungry marketers and operators, Foodable Labs decided to do a deep data dive and highlight the Top 25 Hot Casual Dining Concepts to kick-off 2018.

In the past couple of months, traditional casual dining brands, like Applebee’s and Chili’s, have been experiencing a decline in sales due to decreased millennial foot-traffic. All the while, a new generation of upscale casual dining brands are picking up slack and gaining new customers.

So why are diners choosing to eat at these establishments versus the former casual dining staples?

These concepts have been able to forge a connection with the local communities they serve— not only through community outreach, but also through their menus.

Learn about two popular brands included in the casual dining report, which is available for download, below:

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants

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Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants was founded in 2005 by its current Chief Executive Officer, Tim McEnery, in Orland Park, Illinois. The concept is unique since it combines four familiar hospitality elements into one experience with a modern casual restaurant, winery, Napa-style tasting room and an artisanal retail market, all in each location.

Rob Warren is the man at the helm of the wine program at Cooper’s Hawk. The wine collection he has designed is geared to please a wide variety of palates, from new wine drinkers to seasoned wine connoisseurs.

The restaurant prides itself in sourcing the finest grapes from both the New World and the Old World wine regions. Some of these regions can be found in countries like Italy, France, California, Chile, New Zealand and Australia. Cooper’s Hawk team collaborates with the growers, nurturing each grape according to individual wine needs.

“The wines are sourced, blended, aged, bottled and distributed exclusively through Cooper’s Hawk,” according to the company’s website.

Each wine is then paired with one of the 110 dishes that form part of the American-fusion menu created by Executive Chef Matt McMillin.

The pairings are clearly labeled in the menu for easy ordering as suggested by the winemaker.

The brand also has a popular wine club with a community of wine enthusiasts that is growing at an annual rate of 25 percent.

Burtons Grill & Bar

Burtons Grill & Bar was also founded in 2005 but by a team of industry professionals and private investors in Hingham, Massachusetts.

The concept is a polished and upscale casual dining chain that specializes in a American cuisine highlighting a chef-driven menu. Its interior design is inviting and comfortable, making guests feel at ease dining in business or casual attire.

“Restaurant designer Peter Niemitz is responsible for Burtons’ rich dark chocolate interior infused with accents of colors reminiscent of savory and sweet spices. Furnished with inviting booths, mahogany tables and intimate alcoves that provide comfort and design versatility,” according to the restaurant’s website.

This brand strategically positioned itself between casual and fine dining, with a price point that offers an attractive value to its diners.

Something that sets this brand apart is the fact that Burtons Grill capitalizes on flexibility and customization when it comes to food. The company even encourages each location to create its own “Chef’s whim” menu to embrace innovation and creativity while featuring local and sustainable ingredients and serving its unique customer base.

Not only is Burtons committed to make seasonal, scratch kitchen menu items, but the brand is strongly committed to serving all guests, including those with dietary restrictions.They even offer special plates that are exclusive to guests with allergies. The staff is well-trained and educated on ingredients and cooking methods in order to offer each guest a safe dining environment, despite the kitchen not being a gluten or nut free. In 2016, Burtons was even voted No. 2 in top allergy-friendly restaurants.

Want to find out what other concepts made the list? Download the Top 25 Hot Casual Dining Concepts of 2018 report here!