Automation is Embraced by Asian Chain, Wow Bao

Automation is Embraced by Asian Chain, Wow Bao

Come Dec. 1, Chicagoans will experience their first automated Wow Bao, an asian fast food chain that focuses on menu items like dumplings, noodle and rice bowls, potstickers, and bao (a meat or veggie stuffed bread roll).

What’s missing?

A waitstaff.

You heard it right! This Wow Bao location will be the first automated eatery for the brand.

According to “Chicago Tribune,” “Customers will order and pay at a kiosk and pick up their food from one of a dozen LED-lit cubbies, which will display their name on an LCD screen when their food is ready. Wow Bao is also introducing a new app in tandem with the Near North restaurant so visitors can order on their phones.”

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Social Restaurant Visits Jump Over 5 Million: What Does That Mean for the Industry?

On this episode of “On Foodable Weekly,” host Paul Barron highlights the restaurants that have grown the most in the past month and what that means for the industry as a whole. We will also look at Del Taco’s brand performance and its biggest competitor: Moe’s Southwest Grill.

According to Foodable Labs, the restaurant industry continues to show an increase in growth. This growth is illustrated through the analysis of real-time data signaling a brand’s visibility across social media platforms. One of the big indicators of restaurant industry health is SRV or Social Restaurant Visits. A social restaurant visit is an action a consumer takes, whether it is a mention, photo share, or “check in” on a social media platform, referencing a restaurant’s location either in a post or within the post’s geo-metadata.

“If volume on conversation is up, that gives us a indicator that potentially we could be seeing either sales shifts or traffic in restaurants moving up or down,” Paul Barron said.

Foodable Labs has added another measurement known as Facebook and Twitter Combined Industry Visibility. Are people talking about going out to eat and are they engaging with top brands? Currently, the total industry visibility month-over-month was somewhat flat, with a slight increase in interactions, unique users, and units identified in the month of October over September.

Looking back at June 2016, the industry experienced the lowest number of interactions of the year to date, with numbers of interactions at 54 million and the number of unique users at 31 million. Contrarily, October showed continuous growth, although slow, in the industry with interaction figures reaching 71 million and unique users reaching over 42 million.

Growth Within the Industry

Restaurants showing notable SRV growth in October over September 2016, include:

  1. Tender Greens jumps to the No. 1 spot with an 8.82 percent SRV growth.
  2. Chick-Fil-A steals the No. 2 spot this month with a 5.11 percent SRV growth after not making the Top 10 list back in September.
  3. Arby’s has been consistent in its ranking month over month, staying at the No. 3 spot since August. Its SRV is currently at 4.92 percent.
  4. Shake Shack, which has been on the list before, is now at the No. 4 spot with a 4.87 percent SRV growth.
  5. Freshii drops from the No. 1 spot to No. 5 with just a 4.82 percent. SRV growth month over month
  6. &pizza is a new entry in the Top 10 list, coming in at the No. 9 spot with a 4.27 percent SRV growth.

An important takeaway from this data is total SRVs for the industry jumped up in August, September, and again in October by over 5 million.

Top Performers

Two brands that prove our case are top performers Del Taco and Moe’s.

Here’s what Foodable Labs found:

Del Taco

  • Same store sales growth for 12 quarters
  • New market and new menu item penetration
  • 68.48 percent increase in overall Foodable Labs score

Moe's Southwest Grill 

  • 36.4 percent of Chipotle guest crossovers
  • Overall higher engagement than Chipotle
  • 50.87 percent increase in overall Foodable Labs score

Watch the full episode to learn more!

Is On-Demand Delivery Actually Hurting Restaurant Brands?

Is On-Demand Delivery Actually Hurting Restaurant Brands?

By Amelia Levin, Foodable Industry & Research Editor

You thought we were time-pressed before. These days, consumers are busier than ever — with work, family responsibilities, and social lives. There’s not always time to run out, even for a quick lunch or dinner. Sometimes it’s just easier to get it all delivered — to the office, to the home, or even to a social event in catering-like fashion. 

Restaurants know this, and that’s why many have teamed up with third-party delivery services to offer greater reach — literally, in terms of footprint, and in terms of attracting new customers while retaining the regulars. From bike messengers to traditional car drivers, many of these new-age delivery services focus on speed and food quality first, combined with a dedication to the same superior customer service diners expect inside the restaurant’s four walls. 

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Fast Casual Trends TV: FCIC Chair & Wow Bao President Geoff Alexander [VIDEO]

We are kicking off a brand new season of Fast Casual Trends TV with a new look, inside the Foodable HQ studio! On this premier episode, brought to you by the Foodable Network and Technomic, we catch up with Geoff Alexander, Fast Casual Industry Council (FCIC) Chair and President of Chicago fast casual Wow Bao. Watch the full episode as Alexander discusses fast casual expansion, how this segment is bringing more approachability to chef-driven fare, why the future holds more value in this space for the consumer, and what to look forward to at this year’s Fast Casual Trends & Directions Conference. (Bonus: If you’re a fast casual operator, learn more about how you can get involved with the FCIC.)

Wow Bao — The Way of the Bao

In this Fast Casual Trends TV episode, brought to you by the Foodable Network, we sit down with Geoff Alexander, EVP of Wow Bao, a Lettuce Entertain You concept in Chicago. Watch the full episode as Paul and Geoff talk about the shift of higher quality ingredients in fast casual, regional versus national fast casual brand success, and what the future of ethnic fast casual concepts potentially has in store.