How Souvla is Revitalizing Fast-Fine Dining

Earning the unofficial rank of an “emerging brand” is not an easy task in today’s oversaturated industry. A unique idea, excellent service, and an appealing menu is not always enough to secure a restaurant’s survival.

Charles Bililies, the CEO and founder of Souvla, shares his vision for the fast-fine dining restaurant on this episode of Emerging Brands. Based in San Francisco with four current locations, Souvla—a reference to the Greek word meaning “spit” or “skewer”—offers a modern version of traditional Greek gyro and souvlaki sandwiches with rotisserie roasted and naturally-raised meats, and features the only all-Greek beverage menu available in any United States restaurant. Frozen Greek yogurt is served for dessert.

“Souvla was conceived first and foremost as a brand,” says Bililies. In everything they do, “[we] really want to make sure it stays true to the soul of Souvla.”

While customers order meals at the front counter, they still enjoy typical fine-dining benefits like a server who brings food to your candle-lit table, fine wine, and bussing service. And they also enjoy a relatively cheap, reasonable bill at the conclusion of their meal.

Souvla operates under the motto “make it nice and be nice,” and the maxim is displayed on the walls of the restaurant’s kitchens and offices. For Bililies, the goal is to avoid the toxic culture of perfection that has become rampant in many modern restaurants while still consistently meeting and exceeding the highest standards of quality.

“Even though the physical menu doesn’t change, we’re constantly evolving and refining who we are and what we do and how we do it,” adds Bililies. Souvla is always striving to “find other unique ways to engage with our guests and our followers.”

Listen to the episode above to hear more from Bililies on the Souvla experience and what lies ahead for the company, and check out the Emerging Brands podcast to learn about other rising brands and innovators in the restaurant industry. You can also download the Top 150 Emerging Brands Guide to check out the full list of emerging brands from Foodable Labs.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Olivia Aleguas

Producer

Third Party Delivery Life or Death for the Restaurant Operator

The conversation surrounding food delivery continues to be a major concern for today’s restaurant operators as they wade through a number of new technologies providing third-party delivery solutions.

GrubHub is up by over 38 percent in sales. The online delivery marketplace has also acquired Tapingo, Eat24, and LevelUp, and recently partnered with Dunkin’. However, not far behind, DoorDash just overtook GrubHub in U.S. monthly food delivery sales. The ever-popular Uber maintains a steady 91 million monthly active users in over 20 countries and provides food delivery for 50 percent of the U.S. population.

Nevertheless, our research here at Foodable Labs shows that there are some beginning signs of fatigue in both the operator and the consumer in terms of sentiment toward third-party delivery. An analysis of over one million conversations about third-party delivery reveals a few key areas that consistently problematize the companies’ claims to convenience.

Top 10 Third-Party By Sentiment Rating

Source: Foodable Labs

The Fees hit both the operator and the consumer. Operators typically pay third-party companies 20 to 30 percent of the base cost of the ordered food. Depending on the delivery service, consumers may pay a yearly fee or pay fees for delivery from certain restaurants. In just this past quarter, there has been a sentiment drop of 3.6 points on the consumer side across the top ten delivery services. On the operator side, the drop is even direr: sentiment fell by 5.8 points.

The Data represents a constant battle between the operator and the delivery service: who owns a guest’s information, order habits, items, and frequency of purchase? The restaurants believe the guests’ data belongs to them because the customer is their guest eating their food, whereas delivery services want to leverage the data to the max with deals, app notifications, and constant marketing.

The Brand is a key area that hits home for every restaurant business. Because the restaurant loses control of the delivery, brand continuity often comes into question. Food safety and new packaging is a constant concern for restaurants to ensure they maintain each customer’s business and overall enjoyment of the restaurant.

The Jimmy John’s sandwich chain, one of the first restaurants to embrace delivery services, has refused since its beginnings to deal with third-party companies due to these issues. “We’ve been researching … what is best for our customers and our brand,” says Jimmy John’s Chief Marketing Officer John Shea. “In our exploration, we came to the conclusion that we do it better.”

The question still remains whether food delivery companies like GrubHub and UberEats can come up with a program to solve these issues. My take is that the industry is incredibly complex: businesses range from independent to franchises to emerging chains to Titans of QSR, and each business has different needs and complaints regarding the current model of third-party food delivery.

Some members of the industry are seeking the bottom line of profit, while others are looking for top-line sales and incremental lift. The brand also comes into play, and profit is always a factor. The guest connection could also change the entire landscape of food delivery over the course of the next few years.

A few brands are taking matters into their own hands. Third party delivery can deeply cut profits, so fast-casual restaurants like Modern Market and Panera Bread are investing in their own ordering and delivery platforms. This move is risky, as it could limit the company’s competitive potential. But the choice ensures that the restaurant can maintain brand continuity and better address customer concerns regarding the food delivery process.

Third party delivery providers have a fiduciary responsibility to grow the business and create stockholder value. And history shows that pushback from the community can be a deterrence to the growth of these companies. The real difference here is that the dynamics of the restaurant industry does not fare well for third-party deliverers. The real future for the third-party delivery companies lies in the development of their own foodservice brands —whether they are cloud and virtual kitchens, or full on commissary systems that can meet massive demand. In my video report from last November, I break down the idea of how third-party restaurant brand development is the real gold rush for likes of Uber and GrubHub.

How Hot Chicken Takeover is Reinventing the Fast Casual Experience

“Our mission is clear now — simply put, we want to keep creating extraordinary experiences for extraordinary people,” says Joe DeLoss.

On this episode of Emerging Brands, Joe DeLoss—the founder of fast casual restaurant chain Hot Chicken Takeover—discusses bringing Nashville-style fried chicken to Columbus, Ohio. Inspired by Nashville restaurant favorites Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Monell’s, Joe DeLoss decided to create his own hot chicken restaurant chain.

Monell’s had family-style southern meals every day of the week,” says DeLoss. “You would join a table with ten other people, and I fell in love with the communal experience. Most guests walking into a fast casual restaurant don’t remember being called out or greeted—our question was, how do we build the infrastructure of our restaurant around recreating that communal experience for our guests and employees?”

Over the last decade, Joe DeLoss has worked in a number of industries in an effort to create employment opportunities for people experiencing or who have experienced incarceration, homelessness, and other hardships. Founded in 2014, Hot Chicken Takeover has become a breakout brand in the Midwest. The chain boasts an excellent employee retention rate and an ever-growing customer base.

In this podcast, DeLoss details his retention and employee development goals as well as the core values of the fast casual chain.

The Hot Chicken Takeover team endeavors to operate from a place of “bold humility” in everything they do. “We listen to everything we hear and take it very seriously. Our goal is to acknowledge and address trends that our customers are experiencing before they become large problems,” explains DeLoss. “We know that we can always improve, and we’re unwilling to get in the way of progress. We measure an employee’s performance against that.”

Listen to the above podcast to learn more about the future of Hot Chicken Takeover, and check out our Emerging Brands podcast to hear from other rising leaders in the restaurant industry. You can also download the Top 150 Emerging Brands Guide to check out the full list of emerging brands from Foodable Labs.

This post is brought to you by Tyson Foods. To learn more, visit The Modern Chef Network.

Tyson Foods Launches Plant-Based Brand Raised & Rooted

Tyson Foods, the second largest meat packer in the world, will unveil its first plant-based nuggets and burgers this summer and fall, respectively. These products will be released as part of Raised & Rooted, the corporation’s new plant-based and blended meat brand.

Instead of chicken, the nuggets will be largely composed of pea protein. The burgers will be a blend of Angus beef, plants, and pea protein. The nuggets promise 30 percent less saturated fat than traditional meat, while the burgers guarantee 60 percent less. The nuggets also feature five grams of fiber.

Alternative protein is “experiencing double-digit growth,” says Noel White. White has served as president and CEO of Tyson Foods since late 2018. “It could someday be a billion-dollar business for our company.” He also affirmed that the company would continue to be “firmly committed” to its original meat-based products.

Raised & Rooted will face fierce competitors, including Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat—and Tyson Foods only recently divested from the latter. Tyson Foods has previously invested in other alternative protein companies as well, including Future Meat Technologies, Memphis Meats, and Myco Technology.

After its announcement, Tyson Foods shares climbed three percent while Beyond Meat fell four percent. Beyond Meat ceased production of its plant-based chicken strips earlier this year. Kellogg’s currently offers vegetarian chicken nuggets through its Morningstar Farms division.

Tyson Foods intends to offer additional alternative protein products through its other divisions, and Raised & Rooted is not the first of the corporation’s numerous brands to offer plant-based products. Aidells currently features all-natural sausage and meatballs composed of blended chicken and plant proteins.

Research by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


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Top 100 Fast Casual Innovators Report Released

Our release of the Top 100 Fast Casual Innovators Report breaks down the top fast casual restaurant performers in the segment as analyzed by our Foodable Labs data index. I got a chance to look back on the fast casual pioneers who edged their way into the fast casual restaurant industry in the mid-90’s and changed it forever to become the 21st-century behemoth of fast casual that we know it to be today.

The Innovators Who Envisioned Our Dining Future

Over 20 years ago I had the opportunity to meet and work with these pioneers early on in my career and see the hidden gems of restaurant brands and fast casual trends that they were forging. Today we see an entirely new crop of Top 100 fast casual operators that are being led by a new group of young execs that are destined to create a new benchmark for the top fast casual restaurant brands and their future. Brands like Sweetgreen, Mod Pizza, Tender Greens, Shake Shack are just a few of the innovators leading the way.

When I look back at the 25 years of analysis of fast casual trends and fast casual concepts, the one area that continues to rise to the top is the adoption of technology that these fast casual brands continue to drive home. Changes in technology continue to cause major shifts in the space with recent origin party delivery strategies with Modern Market that could start an entirely new approach to how delivery will be managed by fast casual restaurants in the future. These kinds of strategies could spell doom for the likes of Grub Hub and Uber Eats should the top fast casual restaurant brands create a new roadmap for on demand delivery.

Fast Casual Set to hit 100 Billion by 2025

Our Foodable Labs study finds a growth track that could exceed 100 billion in sales by 2025 for fast casual and potentially as many as 1,500 concepts in the U.S. alone. This growth is attributed to a massive adoption of food away from home and the on demand market by the emerging market of consumers in the 25-34 demographic.

Additionally the explosion of fast casual and emerging restaurant brands is due to the low cost of entry, digital marketing opportunities and now even ghost and virtual kitchens will lead a pioneering era for fast casual growth in the next decade. Technology adoption by consumers will assist in this massive shift and the continued desire by consumers to eat cleaner and more consciously.

Make sure to download the Top 100 Fast Casual Restaurant Innovators Report to get all the insights to the future of the fast casual restaurant business. See more reports and market insights on The Modern Chef Network brought to you by Tyson Foods.