Check Out Season Four of Fast Casual Nation That Highlights Consistent, Quality Food

Fast Casual Nation offers exclusive interviews with experts ranging from top chefs and brand makers to executives and restaurateurs who work in one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant industry. The show is available to view in full on Foodable On-Demand.

Now in its fourth season, Fast Casual Nation endeavors to examine “The Next Generation of Food” via the latest industry trends and emerging restaurant concepts. During this season, Paul Barron got the chance to interview some of the masterminds behind restaurants Matt & Marie's, Dog Haus, and Smashburger.

If you think the classic Italian sandwich has overstayed its welcome, think again. Based in Philadelphia, Matt & Marie’s menu is equal parts sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and savory. Self-declared “Philly’s favorite hoagie,” Matt & Marie’s values consistency, integrity, and fresh and flavorful ingredients. The chain is passionate about making Italian charcuterie accessible and palatable to everyone.

First meeting in college at Wharton, co-founders Marie Capp and Justin Matt Saplosky created and managed a catering business together while still in school. They established the first brick-and-mortar Matt & Marie’s location a few weeks after graduation. Barron met and interviewed Capp at that flagship location in Philly’s historic Logan Square.

“Hospitality is definitely a business,” says Capp. “And it’s got more of a heartbeat than any industry I’ve ever been exposed to. You’re dealing with so many people face-to-face every single day, getting to know their names and stories, and seeing their lives unfold over the years.”

For Capp, the inspiration behind Matt & Marie’s was simple: “This is a charcuterie board in a sandwich for lunch. It’s something you would normally get at a nice Italian restaurant at night.” She adds, laughing, “I say it’s lunch time.”

Check out the episode to learn more about Capp’s background and the ingredients that go into every Matt & Marie’s sandwich.

Hot dogs are traditionally seen as more of an indulgence than a meal. Dog Haus takes a slightly different approach: while still keeping the style and flavor of a traditional hot dog, all of the chain’s hot dogs are crafted by hand and free of antibiotics and hormones. Sausages, burgers, and chicken sandwiches are also on the menu.

The chain was founded in California in 2010 by business partners and friends Hagop Giragossian, Quasim Riaz, and André Vener. The three wanted to create something that was a hybrid of the formal restaurant and fast casual formats: “craft casual.” Today, Dog Haus now boasts a $500 million franchise agreement and is projected to experience exponential growth for years to come.

Barron sat down with Adam Gertler, American chef and television personality—and the official "Würstmacher" for Dog Haus. Gertler directs the production and inspiration behind the chain’s latest sausage creations.

“The concept was to do a hot dog place, but for a grown-up palate,” says Gertler. “It’s super comfort food with a lot of flavor.”

All Dog Haus locations have beer and wine, and select units are also designed as a beer garden with a strong focus on craft beer. Every drink is carefully chosen and, like the unit itself, designed to reflect the location’s surroundings and community at large.

“As we develop more stores, we get a better idea of what we are and what we want to look like,” notes Gertler. “Each store also has a unique feel to where it is. We don’t want to be complete cookie cutter.”

To hear more about the chain’s menu design and signature offerings, make sure to check out the episode!

Burger joints are a dime a dozen in today’s market, but Smashburger has carved a unique place in the industry for itself by keeping the focus on menu development. The chain prioritizes dishes that utilize high quality, consistent, and efficient ingredients.

Barron chatted with Tom Ryan, the chief concept officer for Smashburger. A fast casual pioneer, Ryan co-founded the enterprise in Denver in 2007. Smashburger now maintains over 350 locations worldwide.

According to Ryan, the goal has always been to secure excellent distributors that allow workers to concentrate on doing what they do best: making the perfect smashed burger and offering excellent customer service.

“We seek out high quality vendors to give us best-in-class ingredients that are consistent every time,” says Ryan. “You have to manage quality, safety, and integrity inside the four walls.”

Smashburger does not choose its distributors lightly. The people the chain works with offer more than just ingredients. “Our distributors have a great sense where the velocity is in the marketplace, so we do a local burger in every market,” adds Ryan. “It forces us to have to peruse menus on a local basis, and forces us to have a lot of dialogue with a lot of local operators.”

Watch the episode to learn more about the chain’s favorite ingredients, menu innovations, and current system processes for maintaining exceptional food safety standards and supply chain integrity.

Produced by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


VIEW BIO

Sandwich Shakeup: Leading Ladies in this Emerging Sector Tell Us How their Concepts Stand Out From the Rest

Sandwich Shakeup: Leading Ladies in this Emerging Sector Tell Us How their Concepts Stand Out From the Rest

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large 

The fast casual sandwich sector has come a long way from restaurants serving the same old turkey club and roast beef sandwich.

Creative concepts have emerged and are offering diners a unique twist on many sandwich favorites, while also serving menu items guests have never seen before. 

Although Jersey Mikes and the quick-serve Arby’s are chains on the rise, many other sandwich chains are having difficulty competing with these emerging concepts. 

Former sandwich kings, like Subway have been forced to close hundreds of stores this year. The pressure from the fast casual segment, especially with the new array of innovative options for customers to choose from, has had a negative impact on major chains. 

These elevated sandwich concepts are disrupting the segment as they continue to gain traction in the market. 

Two restaurants uppin’ the ante in this sector are Matt & Marie’s and Mendocino Farms. Both of these concepts have leading ladies as co-founders and we decided to sit down with each off them to see how their concepts are standing out from the rest. 

Read More

Matt & Marie’s Is Revitalizing the Classic Italian Sandwich

Watch this episode on

Video Produced by Denise Toledo

Marie Capp and Justin Saplosky met at the Wharton School of business, where one of their first conversations centered around their favorite sandwiches. Their passion for sandwiches and hospitality flourished into a catering business, and just a few weeks after graduating, the pair opened their first brick-and-mortar location in Philadelphia, Matt & Marie’s.

“I dreamed about being able to open my own restaurant since I was very young. Matt similarly said when he retires, he hopes to be able to own a sandwich shop,” Capp said.

It was a match made in sandwich heaven. When the two began brainstorming their menu, they wanted to modernize the classic Italian sandwiches.

“We loved the idea of centering the business around a sandwich. Fresh, healthy, high-quality Italian ingredients with a lot of pop,” she said.

screen_shot_2016-09-13_at_10.12.52_am.png
screen_shot_2016-09-12_at_10.22.22_am.png
screen_shot_2016-09-13_at_3.22.13_pm.png
screen_shot_2016-09-12_at_10.22.05_am.png

The pair turned to Chef Ryan Smith of New York Vintners to help them create a signature menu of sandwiches that hit on all five flavor profiles in every bite: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. Their elevated Italian classics have really resonated with their customers.  

“It’s something you would normally get at a nice Italian restaurant at night. Picking on a little sharp provolone, a little fennel salami. I say it’s lunch time. I want a charcuterie board on a piece of Italian bread.”

You can also get a little inventive at Matt & Marie’s. With a balance of sweet and spicy, their Ducati Dealer is their take on a Vietnamese bahn mi.

“If they trust that they can come to one location, but be able to experiment with what they get, it’s a slam dunk,” Capp said.

Check out how Matt & Marie’s is faring in the sandwich city of America on this episode of “Fast Casual Nation.”