Fast Casual Executives Share How Their Brands are Adapting to Stay Successful in Today's Market

The fast casual segment looks much different today than it did 10 years ago. The concepts in this sector continue to disrupt the foodservice space, but they have to find new ways to do this.

Fast casual concepts are often the pioneers or the first adapters when it comes to new trends.

On the IOChangeMakers live stream, we sat down with Donna Josephson, SVP and CMO at Corner Bakery Cafe and André Verner, Partner and co-founder of Dog Haus to see how these brands continue to pivot in today's market to stay successful.

According to Foodable Labs, over 30 percent of the U.S. Restaurant industry is using some form of on-demand third-party ordering solution. But to handle the influx of these orders presents a new challenge. So this is influencing established chains to jump on the virtual restaurant bandwagon.

Both of these restaurant brands see potential in ghost kitchens or virtual kitchens due to the recent third-party delivery surge.

"We see that as an opportunity for us. We have a big physical plant right now and we may not always need that," says Josephson. "And instead of shunning it and pushing away third-party delivery, let's get in fast and put our arms around it and bring it in close."

Dog Haus announced earlier this month that the restaurants are starting to utilize ghost kitchens. By prepping some of these delivery orders off-site, it allows in-store kitchens to focus on in-store orders.

"We are committed with our Kitchen United relationship. It's something new for franchisees as well. To get a brick-and-mortar, at least for our size, it's about $600,000 to build a store, then you have to sign a 10-year lease and hire 40 new employees right away. You're committed," says Verner. "On a Kitchen United location, you sign a one-year deal. All the kitchen equipment is there. They do everything, they do all the equipment maintenance. They do everything except for staffing the three people in the kitchen."

So there are are less overhead costs involved in these virtual concepts.

Want to learn more about what these successful brands are doing to compete in today's market? Check out the video above or the full interview is also now exclusively available on Foodable On-Demand here.

The Latest in Food Innovation Trends

Today’s most creative restaurants keep guests coming back for more. They are always pushing the envelope or keeping the guests on their toes with food innovations.

On the IOChangeMakers live stream, we sat down with three food innovators– Jeff Drake, CEO of Protein Bar, Diana Dávila, chef and owner of Mi Tocaya Antojera and Zach Engel, executive chef and Owner of Galit to see how they are constantly keeping things exciting at their restaurants.

As Chef Dávila points out the culinary landscape is much more diverse today. The European structure is being broken down. Instead, chefs are embracing their cultural backgrounds.

"I find that in my kitchen people have to unlearn what they know about cooking in general because the European structure doesn't fit the Mexican techniques," says Dávila.

Chef Engel helms the kitchen at Galit, where the dining experience is also much different from the traditional European structure. The Middle Eastern restaurant in Chicago has two menus.

"We have the menu and on the back is what we call the other menu. The other menu is four-courses, it's not like a boujie prix fixe menu with tasting portions and all that, it's family style. This is the concept of how we want people to experience cuisine. We want you to have a giant meal with bread, hummus, Salatin, and all sorts of plates with big entrees with bold grains," says Engel.

Jeff Drake, on the other hand, is a food innovator in the fast casual segment. This sector has been disrupting the traditional culinary structure for years.

Protein Bar was a pioneer in the segment by serving unique ingredients guests couldn't get anywhere else, but now with the saturated market, the concept has had to up its game.

"When Matt the founder started Protein Bar, he was one of the first people to put quinoa on the menu. When he put quinoa on the menu 10 years ago, people didn't know what it was or how to say it.," says Drake. "Over the last 2.5 years, we have gotten back to focusing on ingredients and bringing interesting ingredients or boosts onto our menu."

Want more insights from these food innovators? Check out the video above or the full interview is also now exclusively available on Foodable On-Demand here.

Emerging Brands and How These Restaurants are Redefining the Foodservice Space

With the competition that the saturated restaurant industry market brings, a restaurant has to really stand out to today’s consumer to be successful.

There is now a category of restaurant that Foodable has coined as Emerging Brand, these are the restaurants that are redefining the restaurant business with innovation, and creativity by taking the road less traveled.

These brands have developed a secret recipe that works and keeps the guests coming back.

On the IOChangeMakers live stream, we interviewed Kyle Noonan, restauranteur of FreeRange Concepts, Christina Bourg, SVP of Rotolo's and Jack Gibbons, president and COO of Front Burners Restaurants– all three leaders from emerging brand restaurants to see how these concepts continue to outperform the rest.

“As an emerging brand, we are just much more agile. So we can predict or see trends in the market and make things happen really quickly,” says Bourg.

Gibbons has also noticed as an emerging brand being able to recognize a need in the market and then quickly adapting to meet the demand is often how the restaurant becomes an instant success.

“We have an emerging brand called Velvet Taco and when we opened our first one, we were near late night bars so we stayed open until 5 in the morning to meet an unmet need in the marketplace. We have lines of people who are very young and totally into tacos at 3, 4, 5 in the morning,” says Gibbons. “A big established company just wouldn’t do that.”

But sometimes it's also just about being the new, cool kid on the block.

“There’s a lot to being just new and fresh in the industry. Consumers just want the newest, coolest, freshest thing. So the emergence of a lot of new brands that are dialed into what the consumers are wanting, especially the millennial crowd at Velvet Taco or we have a concept called Mutts Cantina which is our fast casual brand and it’s quick-serve, it’s fresh, it’s cool. There’s a little bit of clout to shopping at the brand,” says Noonan.

Want more tips from these emerging brand leaders? Check out the video above or the full interview is also now exclusively available on Foodable On-Demand here.

Leadership Skills for the New-Age Operator

As an operator in today’s climate, there are new challenges when it comes to management at your restaurant.

There are new populations like Gen Y and millennials to understand. There’s new technology to learn and then train your staff with. There’s the high turnover, so you are consistently looking for reliable team members. There’s the challenge of retention and creating a culture that staff members want to be a part of.

The most successful operators are new-age leaders who aim to develop new leaders and build a culture that stands out.

But the first step to being a great leader is understanding motives.

We sat down with Rudy Miick, founder of Miick Companies on the recent IOChangeMakers live stream to see what it takes to be a leader today as the restaurant industry experiences a profound shift. As Miick points out, there are two types of workers today. Ones that have to work to make a living and others that are inspired to work.

So the goal is to inspire your team. But that is easier said than done. It all starts with defining the “why” or as Miick calls it “your purpose.”

“If I don’t have a sense of purpose or what some people now call the why, if I don’t know why we’re in business besides making money, then I end up being that rudderless leader,” says Miick.

Once you define the why and then establish values that support the why this is how you create or build a culture that resonates. Understanding the why also inspires new leaders within your team.

Want more leadership tips from Miick? Check out the clip above. The full interview is also now exclusively available on Foodable On-Demand here.

The Wine & Spirit Trends Appealing to Today's Sophisticated Drinker

Today's consumer isn't only more educated when it comes to food sourcing, they are also more knowledgeable when it comes to wine and spirits. They are looking for unique liquors, spirits, and flavors that can't be found on every bar menu.

This demand for more elevated spirits has fueled the handcrafted cocktail trend. With that in mind, beverage menus are only getting more sophisticated.

On the IOChangeMakers live stream, we sat down with two beverage experts–Cassie Sakai, wine director and lead sommelier for Girl and the Goat and Alan Beasey, beverage director at The Purple Pig to see what types of beverages guests have been ordering the most.

"Right now agave spirits are all the rage and not just tequila. Mezcal had a little surge there, people were really into mezcal. But now we are also starting to see things like raicilla and sotol coming into the picture," says Beasey.

Gin, vodka, whiskey, and tequila will always remain favorites, but today's guests are adventurous and are looking for something new or even something popular from the past.

"Amaro had its moment and now people are like 'what are we going to do next?.' It's about sourcing things that are limited production. I have been seeing really cool old fashions with vintage ingredients," says Sakai.

Watch the clip above to get more insights on the latest spirit trends. Want the full video? It's available exclusively now for On-Demand members. Learn more about Foodable On-Demand now.