Smashburger Cracks the Code on Menu Development

In this “Fast Casual Nation” episode, brought to you by Simplot Harvest Fresh™ Avocados, we explore a few items on the Smashburger menu, including the Spicy Jalapeño Baja with jack cheese, jalapeños, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, and chipotle mayo on a spicy chipotle bun. “It gives you the heat and it gives you this rich, kind of tobacco-y flavor as well.”

On Smashburger’s back-burner are innovative combinations that have yet to hit the menu. Ryan says pairings like fried egg with avocado are really compelling, and finding ways to integrate avocados onto the menu are proving more profitable as avocado consumption continues to rise.

Chipotle Plans One Day Hiring Binge

Denver-based fast casual Chipotle announced a plan for a one-day hiring binge during which the national chain plans to hire over 4,000 people in a single day for a variety of positions within the company. The planned hiring is set to occur on September 9th and if successful, will expand Chipotle's workforce by close to 7%.

Experts attribute a stronger economy and string of minimum wage increases as resulting in a shrinking of the restaurant labor pool and as such, national restaurant chains are forced to get creative with their recruitment efforts. And Chipotle is not alone in its efforts with many other local and national chains, such as McDonald's and Cheesecake Factory offering education incentives or higher wages to employees. Read More

Chop Shop — A Fast Casual 2.0 Concept That is Shaking Up the Fast Food Industry

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In this episode of Fast Casual Nation, brought to you by the Foodable Network, host Paul Barron takes a trip to one of Denver's premier chef-driven, fast casual restaurants. Owner Clint Wangsnes worked for high-end establishments, but longed for the intimate atmosphere found in fast casual dining after starting a family. With seasonally crafted beer, wine, all natural cane sodas and a rich menu, the Chop Shop doesn't cut corners in excellent service just because it has to be quick. Foods come from local farms and the Chop Shop uses sustainable items to conserve the planet. The Chop Shop may be trying to leave the smallest footprint on the Earth, but its taking huge strides in the fast casual industry.  

Fast Casual Nation: The Best of 2014

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The fast casual segment continues to be a the fastest growing segment in the restaurant industry. Innovative, chef-driven, health-conscious, farm-to-table, international fast casual concepts have come along as disruptors in the industry. In this special episode of Fast Casual Nation, brought to you by the Foodable Network, we take a look back at some of the concepts that are changing the way America eats. Watch the full episode to revisit some of this year's most memorable Fast Casual Nation moments of 2014 with this 'Best Of' episode.

Austin-Style Burger Joint Joins the Many Fast Casual Options in Denver

La Bandita- black bean veggie burger at Hopdoddy  | YELP, Leah A. 

La Bandita- black bean veggie burger at Hopdoddy | YELP, Leah A. 

Hopdoddy Burger Bar, is the latest better burger fast casual concept to join the crowded Denver marketplace. Newly opened next to Union Station, what does this burger bar offer that others don't? Hopdoddy makes sure you have a table before you get your food. While waiting in line, customers are given food tastings and can order cocktails. The menu offers not only beef burgers, but also lamb, turkey, tuna, chicken, and vegetarian burgers. 

So does Denver need another gourmet bar fast casual? What do you think makes a bar joint stand out in this space? Read More