Fuzzy's Taco Shop Names Former Casual Dining Executive David Catalano COO

David Catalano |   Fuzzy’s Taco Shop

David Catalano | Fuzzy’s Taco Shop

The Texas-based fast casual concept Fuzzy's Taco Shop announced late last week that it has named a new Chief Operating Officer.

David Catalano, a former casual dining executive, will be joining the chain's leadership team as the company continues it's massive expansion plans.

Fuzzy's Taco Shop has 144 restaurants in 12 states with an additional 17 stores currently in the development.

"I'm excited to join a company that is already doing so many things right," said Catalano in a press release. "I've been a fan of the brand for a long time and look forward to using my restaurant and hospitality experience to further the Fuzzy's Taco Shop success story."

Catalano has had a long career in the casual dining segment of the industry. He held management roles at Hard Rock Café and TGI Friday's. But his first-hand experience as a franchisee will be especially valuable in his new role as COO at Fuzzy's, he was the first franchisee of Twin Peaks.

"David is an industry pro, having worked on both emerging restaurant concepts and established brands," said Mel Knight, President of Fuzzy's Taco Shop in a press release. "He has also worked on the franchisee side of the table, making him the right person to work alongside our phenomenal franchise partners."

This year, Fuzzy's Taco Shop is celebrating its 17th anniversary.

The restaurant offers a broad menu with Mexican favorites– including Baja-style tacos, burritos, salads, nachos, quesadillas, and chips and queso. On October 4th, the chain has a limited-time-offer of $1 per taco to celebrate National Taco Day.

With so much potential in the fast casual space, Catalano joins the many casual dining giants and former executives that have transitioned to this fast-growing segment.

We have been tracking the casual dining’s decline for years. Many chains in this segment no longer seem to resonate with millennials. Watch the video below to see how legacy brands like Applebees and Chili's are seeing less foot traffic.

How Which Wich Differentiates Itself from Competitors With Its Menu and Ordering System

High-quality ingredients are the driving force motivating consumers to visit better-for-you concepts. Some of these concepts are highlighted in Foodable’s free Top 50 Sandwich Innovator guide and report.

To give you a sneak peek into one of the sandwich innovator concepts in the list, we decided to visit Which Wich and meet with its founder, Jeff Sinelli.

Sinelli founded the first Which Wich in Dallas in late 2003. Now, this brand can be found in its 500 locations in 40 states and 12 countries.

“I was looking for the next thing to do and I was eating a lot of sandwiches at the time… and I just realized I thought I could do it better,” said Sinelli.

One of Which Wich’s biggest differentiators is its customization capabilities in their ordering system. They encourage their customers to write their name on their orders and personalize their sandwiches by checking off what ingredients they want to be included right on the sandwich bag.

Which Wich is not Sinelli’s first venture.

Prior to this sandwich concept, Which Wich’s Chief Vibe Officer had developed dozens of successful independent restaurants, bars and nightclubs before deciding to focus on national concepts—like Genghis Grill, a Mongolian barbecue chain Sinelli had created in 1998, grew to 11 stores in 5 states, and sold in 2003.

Which Wich has been Sinelli’s most successful business venture and he attributes a large part of the concept’s popularity to its diversified menu.

“We have a full spectrum of things for anyone who eats sandwiches. I want the food to be craveable, unique, and things you can only get at Which Wich… I think quality is about the elevation of food and people together and that’s what we try to provide at Which Wich,” said Sinelli.

To learn about some of Sinelli’s favorite menu items check out the video above! And to learn the ranking score of this innovative sandwich restaurant and others, be sure to check out our free Top 50 Sandwich Innovator report brought to you by Miss Vickie’s! Want to listen all about the concept that was ranked No. 1? Be sure to check out The Barron Report’s latest episode with Hunter Pond founder of East Hampton!

Why East Hampton Leads The Top 50 Sandwich Innovators List

After a quick stint at law school, Hunter Pond decided his true passion laid with the restaurant business.

“I just felt this gravitational pull to the industry and it was strong enough... [that] I dropped out of law school after one semester,” said Pond. “...It was a rough three months trying to convince everybody that this was the right move for me.”

On this episode of The Barron Report, our host, Paul Barron, sits down with Hunter Pond, CEO of East Hampton Sandwich Co. to learn how this concept came to be and made its way to become the top Sandwich Innovator concept from our free Top 50 Sandwich Innovator Report.

East Hampton

“I studied the marketplace and I saw that the key differentiator in all of the fast casual sandwich players out there was the bread,” said Pond.

According to Pond, everything that went in between the breads tasted the same, from the lettuce and tomatoes to the meats.

“I kind of looked at it as a mathematical equation and thought, ‘if we could just figure out a way… to utilize our kitchen to focus on what goes in between the bread, I can outsource the bread baking to local European-style bakeries and that would produce, in theory, a higher quality product,” said Pond.

Hunter Pond wanted East Hampton to be the ingredient artisan of the sandwich category while partnering with a bread artisan to provide best sandwich possible to consumers.

Take a listen to the podcast above to learn more about East Hampton’s beginnings and future plans!

Show Notes

  • 00:51 - Top 50 Sandwich Innovator Report

  • 02:18 - How Hunter Pond Got His Start

  • 05:50 - Inspiration for East Hampton

  • 07:25 - Key Differentiator in the Fast Casual Sandwich Segment

  • 09:13 - Consumer Driver Is Ingredient Quality

  • 10:27 - Quality Beyond The Food

  • 13:03 - Future Plans for East Hampton

  • 15:47 - Sourcing

  • 24:21 - Instagram

  • 27:42 - Hiring & Real Estate Challenges

  • 30:40 - Hunter Pond’s Industry Outlook

About the Report

The free Top 50 Sandwich Innovator Report is based off a sandwich study conducted by our sister company, Foodable Labs. “We put together a study that looked a consumer sentiment around mentions of their favorite sandwiches and then we poured out the shops and concepts that came out on top through our algorithm…,” says Barron. That’s the same algorithm that ranks Foodable’s Top 25 Restaurants in each city, for example.

 
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A Sneak Peek into the Top 50 Sandwich Innovator Report

A Sneak Peek into the Top 50 Sandwich Innovator Report

The Top 50 Sandwich Innovator Report identifies the emerging sandwich concepts that are dominating the segment and reveals some interesting trends in menus and consumer interest.

Although we’ve seen a downward trend of 6.8 percent, year over year, in overall restaurant traffic based on social media mentions, the 300 sandwich innovator brands have seen a traffic increase of 3.4 percent, according to Foodable Labs.

The report, which is slated to release sometime in July, will provide an analysis exploring the sandwich segment and trends. The segment has seen an upward trend as far as traffic in social media mentions is concerned, which is a great statement for the newcomers that are dominating the market.

It may have something to do with the move towards brand transparency and the use of higher-quality ingredients. In fact, Food Quality is one of the highest ranked sentiment scores at 78.9 points for the Top 50 Sandwich Innovator concepts since the younger demographics are gravitating more towards higher quality and convenient food options. This research also points to the increased popularity of higher-quality ingredient sides, like chips. Snack brands, like Miss Vickie’s, are leading the way in this segment, further advancing the high-quality ingredients trend.

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Marlin Network launches Foodservice Professional Panel

Marlin Network launches Foodservice Professional Panel

This foodservice marketing agency is putting together a restaurant operator panel and is looking for professionals just like you to become influencers in the industry!

Marlin Network is an agency that has been in business for over 30 years and is on a mission to engage consumers in better experiences away from home.

Currently, the agency is looking for input from operators, owners, chefs, and managers across all segments of commercial restaurants. Marlin Network wants the opinion of those people in the industry who are considered key decision makers, or the people purchasing product for their place of business.

This is an interesting opportunity for industry professionals who qualify, where they will be rewarded for voicing their thoughts on products anonymously. The company will never sell the participant’s information or market to them. Marlin Network’s goal is to better the foodservice industry and incorporate the opinions of real food industry professionals into their projects.

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