Summer Fancy Food Show Highlights Plant-Based The Little Beet

The Specialty Food Association (SFA) annually hosts the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. The largest specialty food and beverage event in North America, the Summer Fancy Food Show features a growing number of restaurants and organizations focused on providing innovative menus and products.

This year, host Paul Barron interviewed a number of leaders in the industry. Becky Mulligan, a former Starbucks executive and the new CEO of The Little Beet, offered her perspective on the growing consumer demand for plant-based products.

After spending sixteen years overseeing thousands of Starbucks units, Becky Mulligan switched gears in 2018 and joined The Little Beet team.

The fast casual veggie restaurant chain just seemed like a perfect fit. “It was perfect for my lifestyle,” says Mulligan. “I was drawn to the concept immediately.”

The Little Beet recently expanded its offerings to a full service gluten-free restaurant: The Little Beet Table. According to Mulligan, the two branches work in tandem: customers continue to go to The Little Beet for a quick, healthy breakfasts and lunches, and they go to The Little Beet Table for dinner, drinks, and special occasions.

“People are becoming more educated about what they consume,” notes Mulligan. “It’s helped us to have a broader platform to talk about why it’s good to have a plant-based diet.” While she emphasizes that plant-based foods should make up the bulk of your diet, balance rather than guilt is ultimately the goal. “We want consumers to have accessible food that is good for you—and that you want to eat.”

All food at both The Little Beet and The Little Beet Table is made fresh everyday. All vegetables and ingredients are prepared from scratch, and the company avoids added sugars and non-blended oils. These prerequisites can be challenging for staff in terms of ensuring everyone is served in a timely fashion, but rewarding for the brand and customers alike.

The Little Beet currently consists of ten units, and there are four The Little Beet Table locations. Mulligan says the company hopes to double those numbers by next year. The chain is also developing a beverage platform.

Check out the video above to learn more about the future of The Little Beet and the company’s plant-based mission.

Third Party Delivery Life or Death for the Restaurant Operator

The conversation surrounding food delivery continues to be a major concern for today’s restaurant operators as they wade through a number of new technologies providing third-party delivery solutions.

GrubHub is up by over 38 percent in sales. The online delivery marketplace has also acquired Tapingo, Eat24, and LevelUp, and recently partnered with Dunkin’. However, not far behind, DoorDash just overtook GrubHub in U.S. monthly food delivery sales. The ever-popular Uber maintains a steady 91 million monthly active users in over 20 countries and provides food delivery for 50 percent of the U.S. population.

Nevertheless, our research here at Foodable Labs shows that there are some beginning signs of fatigue in both the operator and the consumer in terms of sentiment toward third-party delivery. An analysis of over one million conversations about third-party delivery reveals a few key areas that consistently problematize the companies’ claims to convenience.

Top 10 Third-Party By Sentiment Rating

Source: Foodable Labs

The Fees hit both the operator and the consumer. Operators typically pay third-party companies 20 to 30 percent of the base cost of the ordered food. Depending on the delivery service, consumers may pay a yearly fee or pay fees for delivery from certain restaurants. In just this past quarter, there has been a sentiment drop of 3.6 points on the consumer side across the top ten delivery services. On the operator side, the drop is even direr: sentiment fell by 5.8 points.

The Data represents a constant battle between the operator and the delivery service: who owns a guest’s information, order habits, items, and frequency of purchase? The restaurants believe the guests’ data belongs to them because the customer is their guest eating their food, whereas delivery services want to leverage the data to the max with deals, app notifications, and constant marketing.

The Brand is a key area that hits home for every restaurant business. Because the restaurant loses control of the delivery, brand continuity often comes into question. Food safety and new packaging is a constant concern for restaurants to ensure they maintain each customer’s business and overall enjoyment of the restaurant.

The Jimmy John’s sandwich chain, one of the first restaurants to embrace delivery services, has refused since its beginnings to deal with third-party companies due to these issues. “We’ve been researching … what is best for our customers and our brand,” says Jimmy John’s Chief Marketing Officer John Shea. “In our exploration, we came to the conclusion that we do it better.”

The question still remains whether food delivery companies like GrubHub and UberEats can come up with a program to solve these issues. My take is that the industry is incredibly complex: businesses range from independent to franchises to emerging chains to Titans of QSR, and each business has different needs and complaints regarding the current model of third-party food delivery.

Some members of the industry are seeking the bottom line of profit, while others are looking for top-line sales and incremental lift. The brand also comes into play, and profit is always a factor. The guest connection could also change the entire landscape of food delivery over the course of the next few years.

A few brands are taking matters into their own hands. Third party delivery can deeply cut profits, so fast-casual restaurants like Modern Market and Panera Bread are investing in their own ordering and delivery platforms. This move is risky, as it could limit the company’s competitive potential. But the choice ensures that the restaurant can maintain brand continuity and better address customer concerns regarding the food delivery process.

Third party delivery providers have a fiduciary responsibility to grow the business and create stockholder value. And history shows that pushback from the community can be a deterrence to the growth of these companies. The real difference here is that the dynamics of the restaurant industry does not fare well for third-party deliverers. The real future for the third-party delivery companies lies in the development of their own foodservice brands —whether they are cloud and virtual kitchens, or full on commissary systems that can meet massive demand. In my video report from last November, I break down the idea of how third-party restaurant brand development is the real gold rush for likes of Uber and GrubHub.

Foodable Labs Highlights Top 8 Chicken Concepts

Chicken concepts are a proven safe bet for fast food and fast casual chains. And while the plant-based market is certainly booming, chicken remains one of the most efficient sources of protein in terms of its carbon footprint.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

A recent Foodable Labs report showcases the top ten chicken concepts currently on the market based on CSR (Consumer Sentiment Rating). And which companies are in the top five?

1. Chick-fil-A

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Chick-fil-A is the most beloved restaurant in the U.S. by a landslide. The company is also only behind McDonald’s and Starbucks in terms of total sales per fiscal year: its latest year totaled $10.5 billion in sales.

Founded in 1946, the fast food restaurant is best known for its chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets. The company’s latest sandwich offering is the Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich. While Chick-fil-A does not offer much in the way of plant-based or health-conscious options, the chain was the first fast food restaurant to eliminate trans fats from its food and to commit to only using chicken raised without antibiotics.

Despite its positive consumer satisfaction rating, the chain has dealt with some controversy since 2012 due to its Christian origins and continued donations to perceived anti-LGBT groups. Chick-fil-A will likely need to better address this issue as the company moves forward.

2. PDQ

PDQ stands for People Dedicated to Quality. According to a 2016 report, the company’s workers topples Chick-fil-A employees when it comes to being the most likely to have a “pleasant demeanor.” The up-and-coming fast food restaurant is committed to providing fresh food, infusing each dish with a personal touch, and cultivating teams filled with happy workers who want to be there.

The chain was established in 2009 by Bob Basham, one of the co-founders of Outback Steakhouse, and Nick Reader, the CFO of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The menu is composed of chicken tenders, chicken nuggets, salads, sandwiches, bowls, and a number of unique sauces. All food is “just made”: every meal is created in-house with hormone- and steroid-free chicken that has never been frozen.

PDQ does have to grapple with some growing pains. The majority of its 65 locations are in Florida, and the fast food restaurant was recently forced to close three of its Oklahoma locations. Still, PDQ is opening its first New York branch in July, and a new restaurant is in construction in Evesham, New Jersey.

3. Slim Chickens

Known for its wings and hand-breaded, all-natural chicken tenders, Slim Chickens prioritizes fresh, flavorful ingredients. Chicken is also always cooked to order using soybean oil. One of the chain’s latest offerings is Devil’s Smoke Shaken Wings, which utilizes a new sauce with a barbecue base and honey and habanero flavoring.

Slim Chickens has an interesting history. First established in 2003 in a now-defunct Arkansas sushi restaurant, the fast casual restaurant chain swiftly expanded to multiple locations in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The chain has since gone international, establishing successful branches in Salmiya, Kuwait as well as London and Cardiff.

Looking ahead? The chain seems intent on continuing to build its brand throughout the UK and the American south. The company currently has 69 locations throughout the U.S. and abroad, and just opened another location in Birmingham, England shopping centre Grand Central. Another Mississippi location is also in the works and set to open this July.

4. Flyrite Chicken

Flyrite Chicken might just be the fast casual chicken-focused dining chain that modern consumers are looking for. While hoping to compete with the likes of Chick-fil-A, the Flyrite menu also caters to the growing plant-based market with chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, wraps, and salads.

Entrepreneur Kevin Warden founded the chain in 2016, hoping to appeal to meat-lovers and vegetarians and vegans. All chicken is raised without antibiotics, and no artificial ingredients are used by the restaurant. Customers who dine in can also enjoy a beer or wine by the glass with their meal.

The chain currently maintains three Texas locations, its latest restaurant opening this year at Austin Airport.

5. Raising Cane's

Raising Cane’s is all about chicken fingers. The menu keeps it simple with four combos to choose from: The Box Combo, The 3 Finger Combo, The Caniac Combo, and The Sandwich Combo. Chicken is never frozen and always cooked fresh with canola oil.

Raising Cane’s has been in business since 1996, but the franchise truly took off in the late 2000s. In 2008, the company had about 50 locations throughout Louisiana: today, the company maintains over 400 restaurants in 26 states. Like Slim Chickens, Raising Cane’s has also expanded internationally to Kuwait, as well as in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Lebanon.

Raising Cane’s will open its second and third Tucson, Arizona restaurants in July and October of this year. Todd Graves, the founder of Raising Cane’s, was also named one of the top CEOs to work for by Glassdoor.

According to a recent Foodable Labs study, fast casual is set to garner 100 billion in sales by 2025. The Top 100 Fast Casual Innovators Report found that consumers in the 25-34 demographic are driving this change with a growing preference nationwide for eating food away from home.

Top 8 Chicken Concepts

This post is brought to you by Tyson Foods. To learn more, visit The Modern Chef Network.

Building a Menu That Differentiates Between Takeout, Catering, and Delivery

On this episode of The Takeout, Delivery, and Catering Show, podcast hosts Valerie Killifer and Erle Dardick chat with Tad Low to discuss the importance of menu differentiation within off-premise.

Tad Low is the Director of Off-Premise for Moe's Southwest Grill, an Atlanta based fast-casual restaurant chain with over 725 domestic and international locations. Low is leading a team that is working to bring delivery to the forefront of the guest experience.

When it comes to maximizing opportunity with off-premise, Low credits Erle at helping him understand the importance of recognizing the different revenue channels that exist within off-premise.

“We really have four main channels of revenue here. We have our in-store business, we have our catering business, we have our online business and we have now our third-party business. And understanding that each part of the business while representing a different percentage of our overall sales they each have a different impact to our bottom line,” says Tad Low. “And understanding that in order to maximize each of those channels we probably need to have a menu that is geared towards each of those segments.”

Learn how each menu for Moe’s Southwest Grill’s different revenue channels differ from each other along with more tips for off-premise success by listening to the podcast episode above!

Vanessa Rodriguez

Vanessa Rodriguez

Writer & Producer


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Nespresso Taking the Lead in Coffee Sustainability Best Practices

Consumers today want more from their coffee: they want a meaningful experience. Specialty foods are up by 310 percent in terms of menu inclusion. For restaurants and hospitality operators, coffee offers a unique way for operators to differentiate themselves in a crowded market and make a better connection with clients.

On this episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron sits down with Kika Buhrmann, the vice president of B2B USA at Nespresso, a specialty coffee provider. The company’s state-of-the-art machines use coffee capsules to brew a number of coffee and espresso flavors.

“On average, customers today consume four different types of coffee each week,” says Buhrmann. “Millennials are more open to differentiation in coffee. The artistry behind coffee is becoming more and more appreciated and recognized.”

Nespresso encourages businesses and customers alike to recognize the surprising similarities in the production process that exist between wine and coffee. The company is passionate about promoting awareness of the intensive process behind coffee production, and encourages its customers to see the importance of cup selection, maintaining sustainable practices, and using renewable materials throughout the production process — right up to the point of drinking the coffee itself.

“The sustainability program sits at the core of our company,” Buhrmann explains. “Aluminum is the most sustainable material out there today, so all Nespresso capsules are made of aluminum to preserve the quality and freshness of the coffee. For any decision that we make, we look at the impact on our value chain: instead of focusing on what is the easiest thing to do, we like to focus on what is the right thing to do.”

First established in 1986, Nespresso currently works with over 100,000 coffee farmers in 13 countries. The company is highly invested in the future of both the farmers’ families and the larger communities surrounding those farmers — Nespresso wants to ensure that coffee farming remains sustainable on both the local and global level.

Listen to The Barron Report episode above to learn more about the brand-new technology coming to Nespresso machines, and how the company continues to find and develop rich new flavors. And if you would like to keep listening, check out The Barron Report podcast on iTunes Now!

Produced by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


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