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.

What Makes these Fast Casual Innovators the Best in the Business

Fast casual is a term I coined in the mid-’90s at the time to create a way to identify the segment compared to the bulky titans of fast food and casual dining. It wasn't rocket science for me to come up with the term or to even launch fastcasual.com, it was at a time when I saw the culmination of a few strong-minded individuals willing to push the status quo with the right ideas that were starting to connect with an emerging new consumer.

I had the opportunity to meet and work with these fast casual innovators early in my career when I started to see the hidden gems of restaurant brands that they were forging. But the most important aspect that I understood back in the ’90s was not my connection to food, it was my connection to technology consumer adoption and my understanding that technology would someday be the guiding force of the restaurant business.

Fast forward 25 years later and you now have a segment nearing 100 billion in sales and almost every aspect of communication is referring to the term I coined back in the ’90s. My observation and study of the segment, the consumers, the trends and the leaders still drive my curiosity today. If you have not had a chance to check out the documentary Fast Casual Nation, be sure to check it out on Amazon Prime here!

Join me in The Barron Report episode above as I break down some of the pioneers and emerging brand titans of the fast casual sector as I analyze both the pros and cons of some of the best brands in the business.

15 Restaurant Brands to Watch in 2019

When looking back on 2018, it was apparent that there were a clear group of concepts that were starting to separate from the pack in the restaurant industry. Restaurant closures topped at 50K closed locations in 2018– so the market seemed to have some correction.

While we did see some closings of lower performers in casual dining with Applebee’s alone closing over 250 locations in the past two years, the good news was the emerging brand's sector saw significant growth. This sector showed better performance in 2018 than any other brand groups.

These emerging brands consist of about 250 total brands that have multiple locations and are starting to take control of categories. Make sure to check out our 2018 Emerging Brands Report and to be on the lookout for our 2019 list.

sweetgreen-logo

All that said, my 15 brands to watch for 2019 are led by a group of leaders that I think have some unique and interesting aspects that put them in the limelight.

For example, Sweetgreen is setting a new standard of what it means to be a restaurant. The restaurant has morphed into a lifestyle brand or platform that will prove to be a new strategy for several brands that have the following.

lemonade restaurant logo

Lemonade is one of these as well and what separates the brand from the pack is its quality and the brand connection that is prevailing in a big way with guests. If they continue on a growth strategy this could be a player in the healthy halo sector very quickly.

Mod Pizza logo

Mod Pizza is another in this group that has clearly won the fast-casual pizza wars, now with over 400 locations and a management team that is geared toward people and culture this brand could be one to bet on.

Cava restaurant logo

My special mention would be Cava, while not on my 15 brands to watch, their acquisition of the Mediterranean fast-casual chain Zoe’s Kitchen creates both opportunities and challenges that I think are worth mentioning. They also have a rockstar group of investors that are a good reason to keep an eye on them.

Don't miss the episode of The Barron Report above where I break down why these brands have that X-factor.

Is Fast Casual Dying? Emerging Brands Tell a Different Story

Despite major losses on the Nasdaq for national fast casual brands like Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Noodles & Company, fast casual emerging brands like Freshii, Corelife Eatery, and Sweetgreen are growing.

Based on Top 150 Emerging Brands Data

Based on Top 150 Emerging Brands Data

Foodable defines an emerging brand as a concept that finds itself at the beginning stages of development, whether it’s just launching or it’s working through the minutiae of scaling and expansion.

According to Foodable Labs, restaurant traffic overall has gone down 6.8 percent year over year, based on social media mentions of the top 1,000 chains, while emerging fast casual brands have seen an 8.2 percent increase in restaurant traffic.

Nasdaq claims that fast casual is a dying trend, but we believe this is just a shift in the trend.
Emerging brands can’t stay an emerging brand forever, eventually, they begin to scale and gain notoriety across the nation, if done right. National brands like Chipotle are simply seeing natural market forces.

They face greater competition as they continue to expand, as well as more challenges. Whereas an emerging brand is just beginning to build brand recognition. Emerging brands are more nimble when they’re smaller and face less scrutiny.

To learn more about what that exactly means for restaurants, be sure to watch the video above and download the Top 150 Emerging Brands Report.

Nicole Marquis, Founder and CEO of HipCityVeg is an Entrepreneur on a Mission

Nicole Marquis, Founder and CEO of HipCityVeg is an Entrepreneur on a Mission
  • Philadelphia’s HipCityVeg is on a Mission to Show that Plant-Based Food can be Delicious!

On this episode, Nicole Marquis, Founder and CEO of HipCityVeg, tells us how she developed her restaurant to show people that plant-based cuisine can be delicious. Her mission started when her desire to help her father fix his high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes became a debate about genetics versus diet.  Nicole knew that she needed to show, not tell, her father that he could eat well and not give anything up that he loves about food, to instill a lifestyle change.

Listen to the podcast above to hear how Marquis is using the restaurant industry to facilitate lifestyle changes for her customers. 

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