How Sweetgreen is Becoming the Next Fast Casual Unicorn

On this episode of the Barron Report Live, host Paul Barron discusses which wing-focused restaurant brand is taking on pizza for the next Super Bowl, the fire sale of Diageo’s liquor brands, and how Sweetgreen becoming the next food unicorn in the fast casual industry.

Wings Take on Pizza in Super Bowl Challenge
At :35 - Paul discusses the growth of the popular takeout brand, Wingstop. The chicken-wing fast casual chain has seen a 15.5 percent increase in annual growth last quarter, with systemwide same-store sales also growing by 6.3 percent, and its net income jumping 33.8 percent.

The increase in store count to 1,215 global locations, is pretty major move compared to growth in the fast casual segment is slowing down overall. Additionally, the company’s strategy and lack of direct competition are leading them to take over the takeout industry over pizza.

Diageo to Sell Off 19 of Its Brands
At 5:00 - Paul discusses Diageo’s, the world’s largest spirits producer, decision to sell 19 of its lower-end spirits brands to Sazerac for $550 million. The strategy appears to allow Diageo to focus on its premium labels.

This decision will allow the company to take on the trending craft spirits market. Paul has seen firsthand when filming the Foodable show “Across the Bar,” just how often mixologists have opted for a more unique craft cocktail brand.

Sweetgreen to Become the Next Fast Casual Unicorn?
At 6:31 - Paul discusses the biggest news of the week — how salad chain Sweetgreen is quickly becoming the next fast casual market leader.

Foodable identified early on that this concept would be a breakout brand in the fast casual market. With Sweetgreen’s HQ move to Los Angeles in 2016 to join other tech-focused restaurants that are raising money in private rounds at valuations of $1 billion or more, they are here to stay. “CNBC” recently reported that Sweetgreen is nearing a $200 million investment with Fidelity Investments.

The key to Sweetgreen’s success like other fast casual stars is to have a unique,  Xactor. For the salad chain, it’s all about lifestyle. Showcased in previous events like the Sweetlife festival, Sweetgreen is able to connect with their consumers celebrating passion and purpose.

Another brand that has been able to achieve this in the past is Chipotle, controlling the burrito business with ambiance, food, and environment compared to Baja Fresh.

In recent news revolving Chipotle, hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management has sold another large chunk of its Chipotle Mexican Grill investment. The affiliated entities have reportedly sold a total of 118,307 shares of the fast casual chain for a total of $55.8 million.

Watch the live podcast above to learn Paul’s predictions for the fast casual market and what he believes to be next for these two stars, what other factors are playing into Wingstop’s impressive acceleration and its edge in takeout, and to find out which brands are being sold to Sazerac.


Wingstop Launches Ordering Via Amazon Alexa

Consumers with the device Amazon Dot or Echo, can play music, change the thermostat, play trivia, find out the weather, and now order wings all by speaking to “Alexa.”

Wingstop has just announced that it is the first restaurant chain to offer voice-activated ordering through the Amazon Echo or Dot, and users can even customize their orders.

Wing lovers can now tell Alexa that they would like to place a new order or reorder a favorite item for pick-up at Wingstop, along with processing payment. The Amazon device will also provide estimated pick-up times.

By using the phrase “Alexa, ask Wingstop to order wings,” the device will start the order. Users must link their Wingstop account to their Alexa app. In the Wingstop app, customers can store payment options, order favorites and store locations and “Alexa” can access this information and complete the order.

“Wingstop is digitally driven and the launch of voice-activated ordering is the next step in our commitment to providing the most convenient, engaging, and cutting edge brand experience for our fans,” said Stacy Peterson, CIO of Wingstop in a press release. “We are proud to be working with Amazon to enable Alexa ordering of Wingstop Combos, as well as re-orders and favorite orders, plus the ability to customize flavors, dips and sides – making ordering your favorite wings easier and more fun than ever before.”

Wingstop allows guests to place orders online, through mobile and also through both Facebook Messenger and Twitter. Digital orders accounted for a whopping 19% of total orders made at Wingstop as of the end of the fiscal third quarter for the company.

Like social ordering, will other restaurant brands partner with the Amazon device to offer another channel for convenient ordering?  

“We’re thrilled to be working with Wingstop to launch the first full-menu voice-activated ordering functionality, allowing customers to avoid the line by ordering through Alexa,” said Rob Pulciani, Director, Amazon Alexa in a press release.

Wingstop is likely the first of many restaurants to partner with Amazon. Do you think that voice-activated ordering is the way of the future? Read more