Foodable Labs Highlights Top 8 Chicken Concepts

Chicken concepts are a proven safe bet for fast food and fast casual chains. And while the plant-based market is certainly booming, chicken remains one of the most efficient sources of protein in terms of its carbon footprint.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

A recent Foodable Labs report showcases the top ten chicken concepts currently on the market based on CSR (Consumer Sentiment Rating). And which companies are in the top five?

1. Chick-fil-A

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Chick-fil-A is the most beloved restaurant in the U.S. by a landslide. The company is also only behind McDonald’s and Starbucks in terms of total sales per fiscal year: its latest year totaled $10.5 billion in sales.

Founded in 1946, the fast food restaurant is best known for its chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets. The company’s latest sandwich offering is the Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich. While Chick-fil-A does not offer much in the way of plant-based or health-conscious options, the chain was the first fast food restaurant to eliminate trans fats from its food and to commit to only using chicken raised without antibiotics.

Despite its positive consumer satisfaction rating, the chain has dealt with some controversy since 2012 due to its Christian origins and continued donations to perceived anti-LGBT groups. Chick-fil-A will likely need to better address this issue as the company moves forward.

2. PDQ

PDQ stands for People Dedicated to Quality. According to a 2016 report, the company’s workers topples Chick-fil-A employees when it comes to being the most likely to have a “pleasant demeanor.” The up-and-coming fast food restaurant is committed to providing fresh food, infusing each dish with a personal touch, and cultivating teams filled with happy workers who want to be there.

The chain was established in 2009 by Bob Basham, one of the co-founders of Outback Steakhouse, and Nick Reader, the CFO of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The menu is composed of chicken tenders, chicken nuggets, salads, sandwiches, bowls, and a number of unique sauces. All food is “just made”: every meal is created in-house with hormone- and steroid-free chicken that has never been frozen.

PDQ does have to grapple with some growing pains. The majority of its 65 locations are in Florida, and the fast food restaurant was recently forced to close three of its Oklahoma locations. Still, PDQ is opening its first New York branch in July, and a new restaurant is in construction in Evesham, New Jersey.

3. Slim Chickens

Known for its wings and hand-breaded, all-natural chicken tenders, Slim Chickens prioritizes fresh, flavorful ingredients. Chicken is also always cooked to order using soybean oil. One of the chain’s latest offerings is Devil’s Smoke Shaken Wings, which utilizes a new sauce with a barbecue base and honey and habanero flavoring.

Slim Chickens has an interesting history. First established in 2003 in a now-defunct Arkansas sushi restaurant, the fast casual restaurant chain swiftly expanded to multiple locations in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The chain has since gone international, establishing successful branches in Salmiya, Kuwait as well as London and Cardiff.

Looking ahead? The chain seems intent on continuing to build its brand throughout the UK and the American south. The company currently has 69 locations throughout the U.S. and abroad, and just opened another location in Birmingham, England shopping centre Grand Central. Another Mississippi location is also in the works and set to open this July.

4. Flyrite Chicken

Flyrite Chicken might just be the fast casual chicken-focused dining chain that modern consumers are looking for. While hoping to compete with the likes of Chick-fil-A, the Flyrite menu also caters to the growing plant-based market with chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, wraps, and salads.

Entrepreneur Kevin Warden founded the chain in 2016, hoping to appeal to meat-lovers and vegetarians and vegans. All chicken is raised without antibiotics, and no artificial ingredients are used by the restaurant. Customers who dine in can also enjoy a beer or wine by the glass with their meal.

The chain currently maintains three Texas locations, its latest restaurant opening this year at Austin Airport.

5. Raising Cane's

Raising Cane’s is all about chicken fingers. The menu keeps it simple with four combos to choose from: The Box Combo, The 3 Finger Combo, The Caniac Combo, and The Sandwich Combo. Chicken is never frozen and always cooked fresh with canola oil.

Raising Cane’s has been in business since 1996, but the franchise truly took off in the late 2000s. In 2008, the company had about 50 locations throughout Louisiana: today, the company maintains over 400 restaurants in 26 states. Like Slim Chickens, Raising Cane’s has also expanded internationally to Kuwait, as well as in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Lebanon.

Raising Cane’s will open its second and third Tucson, Arizona restaurants in July and October of this year. Todd Graves, the founder of Raising Cane’s, was also named one of the top CEOs to work for by Glassdoor.

According to a recent Foodable Labs study, fast casual is set to garner 100 billion in sales by 2025. The Top 100 Fast Casual Innovators Report found that consumers in the 25-34 demographic are driving this change with a growing preference nationwide for eating food away from home.

Top 8 Chicken Concepts

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

Is The Meal-Kit Market A Mission Impossible Or Will It Survive?

On this episode of On Foodable: Industry Pulse, we touch on the topic of meal-kits and whether or not the category will survive in the current state of the industry.

It’s no secret large players like Blue Apron and HelloFresh are failing at becoming profitable.

For example, Blue Apron, the largest U.S.-based, meal-kit focused company, was forced to implement a company-wide realignment in October 2017 laying off about six percent of its employers after the company saw a drop in subscribers among other shortcomings. Today, the company closed in the New York Stock Exchange at $1.83— a very low number in comparison to the company’s $10 IPO price.

Although there is no profitability yet for those types of companies which solely focus on meal-kits, that hasn’t stopped grocers or even restaurant chains from jumping on board to compete.

Earlier this week, Foodable reported on Chick-fil-A’s latest plans to roll out meal-kits in August.

Watch the video above to learn about what might save this category from flopping!

7 Ways You Can Increase Your Brand's Social Responsibility

Giving back to the communities we serve is not a mandated practice, but is rather something extra that restaurants, and businesses alike, can do to improve their local and national communities.

School Supply Drive! Check out our bio for more info!! #tr19

A post shared by Taproom On 19th (@taproomon19th) on

This is also known as— social responsibility.

This practice can not only increase employee engagement, but also:

  • Develop a positive perception of your brand
  • Increase revenue opportunities; and
  • Increase the possibility of local media coverage

What restaurant wouldn’t want that?

According to the National Restaurant Association, over 90% of restaurants in the U.S. make some form of charitable contribution each year.

What more can be done, you ask?

Let’s take a look!

It can be as simple as what the Taproom on 19th does in Philadelphia. The gastropub in partnership with its neighborhood association, gives out free beer to anyone who donates school supplies and winter coats.   

Cup-of-Care-2017-Blog.jpg

It can involve a more hands-on approach, like what Joey Restaurants is doing with their Cup of Care program, where their front of house, back of house, and head office leaders volunteer their time to wash, peel, and chop over vegetables for beef and barley soup "To date, JOEY has served 100,000 hot meals across Canada, Seattle and Los Angeles partnering with local shelters and organizations" chosen by their employees in each of their communities.

Or, it can involve improving and educating your own team, like Chick-fil-A has done since 1973 with their scholarship program. This brand has been helping restaurant team members achieve their dreams of higher education. Since then, nearly 36,000 team members have received scholarships from the company, “bringing the total amount to nearly $36 million applied at more than 3,000 schools nationwide” as stated in a 2016 blog post on Chick-fil-A’s The Chicken Wire.

Below are a few items to consider when either starting or revamping your own social responsibility program to deliver a more memorable impact!

1. Make it Your Mission

Part of your vision, should be improving your community. How will you turn your vision into a promise? Your program should be highlighted in your mission statement, so it can be shared with your team and community. Take it a step further and set up SMART goals for your program to hold a level of accountability. How much time and/or financial resources do you want to work towards and give back each quarter or year?

2. Reflecting On Your Values

Hopefully you’ve taken the time to define your importance, worth and usefulness within your restaurants statements. If you’ve hired and built your team based on both values and experience, your team should have a common goal of wanting to give back. Get them involved in your social program and have them open up about causes they really care about, as well.

plants growing on coins

3. Environmental Impact

Is there a way your restaurant can build on sustainability? What energy efficient measures can you put in place at your venue(s) and how can you source more ethical food and beverage products to reduce your environmental footprint?  You can also help the environment out by donating used equipment to nonprofits when it’s time to upgrade (instead of disposing them at your local landfill). What kind of impact do you want your brand to leave behind?

4. Local Events

Restaurants pose an easy and enormous opportunity to sponsor local events or teams, or by donating a percentage of revenues to a local benefit event or organization. With a large seating area, a restaurant can also host a fundraising day or night at the restaurant itself. Restaurateurs can also look to support local military and first responders with dining discounts or donations to their equally important charity programs.

5. Team Building

Your restaurant could also take the approach to improve the long-term wellbeing of your team, through a scholarship or further-education program. This could be additional culinary, management, or mixology education scholarships for example, that will improve your operations, both now and in the future. Speaking of team building, giving back often leads to a more positive work environment and increase in staff retention, plus an increase in creativity and personal growth while promoting individual philanthropy.

disaster relief

6. Disaster Relief

When disaster strikes, restaurants are often in a position to lend a helping hand, either locally, nationally, or globally. Whether it is a tornado, earthquake, hurricane, or other life altering event, restaurants can become hubs for financial donations in addition to ‘match funding’ programs.

7. Poverty Assistance

This is an unfortunate aspect of nearly every community. Restaurants are given the opportunity to help the less fortunate through a variety of methods, including volunteer participation, hosting a neighborhood cookout, or by hosting food drives benefiting the local food bank, just to name a few.

As much as a restaurant brands should be taking part in social responsibility for the sole betterment of their community, you should want your program to also improve your image, increase media coverage, develop engagement, and attract investors. Make sure your program is visible on your website, within the four walls of your establishment, and throughout your social media channels to maximize its reach and potential.

Make it a win-win for everyone!

By Doug Radkey, Industry Expert

Here’s Why the Top Three QSR Chains are the Ultimate Marketing Masters

Here’s Why the Top Three QSR Chains are the Ultimate Marketing Masters

Today’s foodie has more restaurants to pick from than ever.

With innovative fast casuals and elevated casual dining restaurants popping up across the country, quick-serve establishments are being forced to rebrand and adapt to keep consumer attention.

For any restaurant to keep up in this competitive digital space, their marketers have to think outside the box. While traditional print marketing may be still relative, the consumer’s everyday experience is now a virtual one.

Every restaurant brand is trying to catch the attention of this elusive, distracted consumer, but some brands do this better than others. QSR chains, especially those who have been around for a while, understand that marketing can make or break a brand.

We decided to take a closer look at the top three QSR brands on Foodable’s most recent National Top 25 Restaurants list to see how these ultimate marketing masters stay above the competition. 

Starbucks is King

This coffee-focused QSR landed at No. 1 on the 2017 mid-year National Top 25 Restaurants ranking.

What’s this brand’s secret recipe? Is it the creative limited-time beverages like the Unicorn Frappuccino that end up going viral? Is it the wildly popular mobile app? It’s a mixture of both of these things.

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