"Fast Casual Nation: Changing the Way America Eats" Premiered in Chicago

Foodable WebTV Network reached a major milestone this past Saturday. As part of the 2015 NRA Show, Foodable unveiled its first screening of "Fast Casual Nation: Changing the Way America Eats," a full-length documentary that leads the viewer through the cinematic tale of how the fast casual segment rose to its glory.

Not only were guests treated to a cocktail reception and an intimate VIP dinner of American-comfort-food classics at the Virgin Hotel's Miss Ricky's, attendees were also privy to be the first to hear more great news: Foodable and the National Restaurant Association revealed their partnership. As of now, their two new ventures include a film festival and the Foodable 5-Star Awards, which will be taking place at the NRA's Restaurant Innovation Summit in San Diego this coming October. Can't wait to see what other exciting things this teamwork will bring to the table of the food industry!

Missed out? Check out photos from the premiere and watch the trailer here.

Dining Out Trends Shifting to Fast Casual

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 2.49.08 PM.png

Just when we thought fast casual couldn't possibly grow any faster than it already has, this sector is surprising us yet again with its astronomical success. According to Technomic, the fast casual segment experienced a 12.8 annual growth. Americans spent $30 billion last year dining at fast-casual restaurants -- nearly double the No. 2 grown sector in the industry.

"The money is there," restaurateur Steve Zhao, who described his newest venture as an Asian spin on Chipotle Mexican Grill, said. "This demographic is the younger folks. They want good food, creative atmosphere and fast -- fast is always better."

The fast casual business model promises limited table service, but higher-quality food. Unlike fast food, these restaurants aim to serve meals with few or no frozen or processed ingredients. An average receipt runs $9 compared to a $5 bill at a drive-thru. And instead of cracking, upholstered booth seats, fast-casual establishments are also elevating the eating experience with cutting-edge décor and flexible menu offerings.

"It's changing the eating world out there," Jay Kitterman, director of Lincoln Land Community College's Culinary Institute, said. He pointed to a recent National Restaurant Association report that indicated for the first time, consumers last year spent more of their food budget at restaurants than grocery stores.

Not only has that changed, but the language of food marketing has, as well. Customers want customization, they want made-to-order dishes, but most importantly, they want something that aligns with their values -- something healthy, fresh.

"I was in an airport...and the Wendy's ad said, 'We value fresh ingredients,'" Illinois Stewardship Alliance program director Lindsay Record said. "The whole language, narrative with fast food is changing." Read More

Posted on May 12, 2015 and filed under Fast Casual, Fast Casual Trends.

Investors Willing to Pay for Fast-Casual Restaurant Shares

Shake Shack

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't think fast casual is here to stay. In this past year, the restaurant industry has risen to feed the growing appetite that millennials and affluent diners have for fast casual. Consumers have become more health-conscious and more keen on being aware of where their foods are sourced from, but are also more selective on how to spend their time -- the busy millennial generation is one of constant motion. They're running around and they want their food to keep up with them.

The fast casual sphere is where those two priorities meet in the middle: healthier than fast food, with service nearly as quick. It's no surprise with this growing popularity that investors are willing to pay just whatever for fast-casual restaurant shares. Will another restaurant crop up and match the success of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., which has opened up 1,800 restaurants since it opened its doors in 2005? 

In shares, Shake Shack has shook things up and is the shining performer. Its growth has gone up 260 percent since the end of January. Shake Shack's current stock price values each of its restaurants at $40 million -- four times more than the stock market value of a Chipotle restaurant and 15 times the value of a McDonald's restaurant. Read More

Posted on May 6, 2015 and filed under Fast Casual, Fast Casual Trends.

Chipotle: The First U.S. Chain to Phase out GMOs

CHIPOTLE.COM

CHIPOTLE.COM

Chipotle is used to the limelight. From being the model of how a top fast casual should be run, to its recent news last week that revealed it would begin taking to the streets by offering delivery, Chipotle is a brand name that is used to branding itself across news headlines. If you're on this blog, you should know that the Chipotle phenomenon inspired an entire book of theory. Regardless of whether a consumer is a Chipotle fan, there is no denying that this fast casual has made its mark on the foodservice timeline.

This week, it's no different. Chipotle has once again made history as the first national food chain to completely rid its menu of genetically-modified ingredients. While the Food and Drug Administration insists GMOs are safe, activists have been questioning this claim. Due to the "lack of consensus" over these concerns in recent years, Chipotle co-CEO Steve Ells said that the company felt it was best not to use GMOs at all. 

This Monday, Chipotle posted an ad on its website that proclaimed it provided "Food with Integrity" and that it was "G-M-Over It." The Denver-based chain had already been using mostly non-GMO ingredients, but made its final changes on its tortilla products. Chipotle said that suppliers plant non-GMO corn varieties for its tortillas, and that instead of using soybean oil --which may be made from genetically-modified crops to be resistant against disease --, the company is now using sunflower oil to cook its chips and taco shells. 

Best of all? These changes did not result in significantly higher costs, so the prices will remain the same for consumers. In the future, Chipotle plans on removing additives from its tortillas, as well. What other steps will Chipotle take to meet the growing consumer-consciousness on good ingredients? Read More

Posted on April 28, 2015 and filed under Fast Casual, Fast Casual Nation, Restaurant News.

"Fast Casual Nation: Changing the Way America Eats" Premiering at NRA 2015!

FCNDoc

Fast casual fans, time to call in for seat reservations because you won't want to miss out on this! FoodableWebTV Network is teaming up with the National Restaurant Association to bring you the biggest film to hit the food service industry.

For one night only, "Fast Casual Nation: Changing the Way America Eats" is premiering at the 2015 NRA Show. The different flavors of the restaurant segment's progression and the upcoming of fast casual will be served to you in one plate of this entertaining, artistic, informative, easy-to-digest and revolutionary documentary. 

Guests to this May 16 premiere event will enjoy a cocktail reception and step and repeat before the screening. Notable attendees include Chief Innovation & Member Advancement Officer Phil Kafarakis, as well as representatives from more than 75 different restaurant brands around the world.

Watch and be inspired by the rise of fast casual to the food service throne. How did this segment become king? Sample a small taste of this sweeping story in this bite-sized trailer below! 

The Healthy Fast Casual Challenge: Good For You vs. Good Taste

Salad

Celebrity chefs are taking on the healthy fast casual challenge: how will the food service industry keep up with the consumer demand for good-for-you food without sacrificing the good tastes they love? On top of that, these hungry mouths want it fast, want it fresh and want it on a frugal budget. 

"Make it better for me, but I don't want to give anything up. I want less salt, no antibiotics, no trans-fats, more fruits, more veggies. I don't go out to restaurants to give stuff up; I go to restaurants to be tantalized," Greg Dollarhyde, CEO of Veggie Grill, said to summarize the modern-day customer.

That's a tall order, but the fast casual segment is ready to dish out. With the support of celebrity chefs and the farm-to-table trend that is popularizing across the nation, sales at healthy fast casual chains totaled an estimated $384 million in 2014 -- almost a 30 percent increase from the previous year. 

Rather than choosing foods based on what's being left out, such as fat, sodium and carbs, most people are choosing foods on the benefits added in, such as antioxidants and omega-3s. Fast casual restaurants are responding to this switch from avoidance diet to add-in diet by packing in the locally-sourced vegetables, grains and meats.

The marketing message is earth-friendly. Rather than alienating customers by labelling themselves with terms such as vegan or vegetarian, restaurants prefer catchy phrases like "veggie-centric."

How else has fast casual responded to this desire for "honest foods"? Read More

"Which Wich" Makes Ordering Sandwiches Fun, Expands In the Northeast

This growing sandwich franchise with a progressive ordering concept already has 330 locations nationwide, the majority in California and the Southwest, and it's  still growing!  

So what makes "Which Wich" special and different from the other generic sandwich chains out there? In today's competitive  Fast Casual market, everyone is trying to make their mark. Fresh ingredients, good prices and quick service are becoming the standard shtick for these sandwich chains. Which Wich has a fun concept marketed to millennials where the guest is in control of their ordering process. Their order is completely customizable. Upon entry, each guest picks out a sandwich bag with either a build-your-own option or a signature sandwich design. They then grab a sharpie to mark which style they choose, add ingredients or any other modifications. The customer writes their name on the bag, hands it in and waits for their name to be called, while doodling during wait time. Doodled bags can then be hung in the "art gallery". This is truly an interactive Fast Casual experience that consumer can't seem to get enough of. Read More 

22-Year-Old Entrepeneur Starts Wokworks

With the rise of fast casual comes many entrepreneurs and their new ground-breaking concepts, ready to take the fast casual crown and become the next Chipotle. That is exactly what Brennan Foxman decided he was going to do at the age of 22. This New Jersey native started an Asian-inspired restaurant serving up predesigned and build-your-own stir-fry entrées. While studying abroad in college, his friends may have been out partying, but Brennan chose to work on restaurant business models instead. He noticed that the majority of fast food used wok cooking with high heat and fresh ingredients.  He loved the idea and brought it back to the states.  After a year and a half of business planning and being turned down by more than 20 banks, Wokworks was born on 1935 Chestnut St in Philly.  Read More

Fast Casual Chains to Watch In 2015

While Chipotle may have paved the way for Fast Casual, there are some new kids on the block with innovative concepts and smart business strategy ready to make their mark. Have you seen any of these brands pop up in your neighborhood? These are some top picks for Fast Casual stardom:

Sandwich from Mendocino Farms | Foodabletv.com

Sandwich from Mendocino Farms | Foodabletv.com

Chop't Creative Salad Company is already the leader in the premium salad fast casual segment. Currently, the chain has locations in New York and Washington DC but it is growing at a rapid pace. With over 50 toppings and seasonal specialties, there is nothing boring about these salads.

Mendocino Farms is a unique upscale sandwich chain based out of LA with 9 locations so far. They focus on local, seasonal and artisanal ingredients and like to reconstruct fine dining entrees to the sandwich level. Their innovative menu and modern twists on classic sandwiches is what sets them apart from the rest. 

Old world meets new school at Roti Mediterranean Grill.  They have a classic take on traditional mediterranean cuisine so it is authentic yet trendy enough to appeal to Millennials with gluten-free options and "freebird" chicken. Originating in Chicago they have already expanded east to New York and DC. Read More

Next up: Wendy's Tries To Keep Up With Fast Casual

The competition is heating up as fast food chains try to stay in the game with the fast casual movement. We are seeing some creative and over the top strategies from these QSRs– specifically with messages that they too care about health and sustainability. 

Realizing that consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it gets to their plate, Wendy's has launched a new ad campaign. To showcase the freshness of their food, the Wendy's commercial follows a head of lettuce from the farm to the table. Using a GoPro camera and promoting the healthy "my food is straight from the farm" trend, Wendy's is targeting the health-conscious millennials who demand to know where their food is coming from. What do you think of Wendy's strategy?  Click here to watch "Wendy's Romaine Lettuce Journey".

Fast Food Tries To Keep Up With Fast Casual

After massive suffering due to competition from Chipotle and other fast casuals, McDonald's is realizing it's time to regroup! Their most recent CEO has been booted as he led one of their worst revenue years in decades.  As of Monday, McDonald's has pledged to make itself a "modern, progressive burger company". So far the company that virtually started fast food has struggled to find the formula to keep up with consumers desire for healthier and fresher food options. With a new CEO in place, the company's first order of business is to switch to chicken raised with fewer antibiotics. Analysts suspect it won't be long before we see kale on the menu, despite an ad that once unapologetically praised its famous Big Mac saying "it will never be kale".  

Other fast food brands are making changes to keep up with the competition brought by the Fast Casual movement. Burger King is removing soda from being an option on the kids menu and will recommend juice or milk instead. Wendy's most recent ad campaign shows a head of lettuce traveling from the farm to your plate as a way to promote freshness.  Read more

Fast Food Doesn't Mean Diet Disaster

In recent times, there has been a drastic increase in the amount of healthy options being offered at fast food and fast casual establishments. Even with the vast offerings it is still up to the consumer to adjust their orders accordingly if health is a concern. Many dishes are large portions and full of sodium, sugar and high in calories. Nutrition information is now readily available either posted on menus at the restaurant or on the companies website, which takes the guesswork out of knowing exactly what you are consuming. So how are consumers eating healthy when they visit restaurants? 

  • By holding the "Special Sauce" and steering clear of tuna and chicken salad. Both of these are diet pitfalls, generally being heavy on the mayonnaise and packing a high fat and calorie count.  
  • Going light on the cheese and sauce and load up on veggies. This is done by getting the dressing or sauce on the side and choose lighter options like salsa, mustard and pico de gallo. 
  • Ordering smaller or lunch-sized portions or splitting with a friend. Often health-conscious diners wrap up half to take home before we even start eating. 

Read More

Is Denver the Capital of Fast-Casual?

Photo from Chop Shop in Denver, CO | Foodable Web TV Network

Photo from Chop Shop in Denver, CO | Foodable Web TV Network

Denver seems to be a hub of the fast-casual trend, largely in part due to it having the right demographic. The city is filled with millennials and affluent customers who are looking for quick and convenient but also healthy food options. There have been multiple success stories of brands starting in Denver, such an Chipotle and Smashburger, but many brands have moved there and expanded.  

Consumers like variety and there are options for each person's dietary needs. The accessibility to gluten free and dairy free options are plentiful. The quality of the food is becoming even better due to chefs from high end restaurants bringing their flare to fast casual. People are more aware nowadays of locally sourced and organic and higher end ingredients due to the availability of information. They can now watch chefs on television and go online to access the latest food trends. Read more

Posted on March 5, 2015 and filed under The Chipotle Effect, Fast Casual.

Cracker Barrel Next to Jump on the Fast Casual Bandwagon

Photo of a Cracker Barrel restaurant | Crackerbarrel.com    

Photo of a Cracker Barrel restaurant | Crackerbarrel.com    

This traveler’s favorite highway exit rest stop is getting a makeover! The old timey country store/eatery is in the works to revamp and join the fast casual movement. The company’s strategy to expand the brand is no surprise considering fast casual now makes up the majority of food services sales. As the concept is still in its early stages of development, there are minimal details available, but we can expect to see the new format by July 2016. Do you think the brand has what it takes to create a successful fast casual with a new twist on Southern Hospitality? Read More

Fast Casual: Here to Stay

Interior of the fast casual restaurant, Pitfire | Foodable WebTV Network  

Interior of the fast casual restaurant, Pitfire | Foodable WebTV Network
 

Look out America! Fast casual dining has entered the food industry, and it isn’t going leaving anytime soon. Restaurants in this category, such as Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Shake Shack, have watched their sales skyrocket in a short period of time as consumers are proving the successful idea of charging extra for a better product in an easy-going atmosphere.

While this area of food service is relatively new, consumers and restaurant operators can agree that the system is only getting stronger. In promoting higher-quality food, a more transparent environment, and sustainable practices, fast casual restaurants are making it their mission to emphasize an overall pleasurable experience from start to finish. It’s an experience that has everyone talking and longer-standing fast food chains rushing to adopt the same approach.

At this point, with society discovering the best “bang for their buck” when it comes to a valuable dining experience, the model of fast casual is here to stay. Read more here.

The Rise of the Chipotle Empire and the Decline of Quick Serve

Cartoon of Steve Ells from Animated Video by Chipotle | chipotle.com

Cartoon of Steve Ells from Animated Video by Chipotle | chipotle.com

No one can argue that the “fast casual” restaurant chains are making their debut in America. The idea of higher-quality ingredients served at an efficient rate for a few more bucks out of your pocket is redefining the food industry, while forcing the larger fast food chains to adapt or give up the fight.

Steve Ells, Founder and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, initiated the rise of this new business model with the opening of the first Chipotle in 1993. Combining a passion for culinary arts, a little support from family and friends, and eventually an investment from a major restaurant chain, McDonalds, his restaurant has risen to a multi-billion dollar company in the span of two decades. Where did this restaurant plant its roots and what has made it so successful with the American public?

Applying this idea of “fast casual” service largely differed from the fast food model on which McDonalds had built their empire, and eventually led to their split with the chain in 2008. Not only did Chipotle succeed from the idea of serving “food with integrity,” they created an entirely new business model that revolutionized the existing models in the industry and left fast food chains, including McDonalds, struggling to keep up. Read more about Chipotle’s history here

FDA Publishes Rule: Calories Posting On Menu

PHOTO CREDIT: NRN.COM

PHOTO CREDIT: NRN.COM

The long expected rules are finally official. The Federal Trade Commission has just required restaurant chains to publish all calorie counts on menus boards. All brands over 20 locations must abide to the rule, and it seems to be widely accepted. 

"We believe that the Food and Drug Administration has positively addressed the areas of greatest concern with the proposed regulations and is providing the industry with the ability to implement the law in a way that will most benefit consumers." National Restaurant Association CEO Dawn Sweeney comments. 

The NRA, along with 70 other groups, pushed for the national menu labeling standard to be implemented. With a year to comply with the new rule, restaurants are able to obtain these counts from nutrient databases, nutrition facts labels, and 'other reasonable means.' Read more here.

Posted on November 26, 2014 and filed under Restaurant News.

Fired Pie Gives Away Free Pizza For Opening Day

PHOTO CREDIT: FIRED PIE

PHOTO CREDIT: FIRED PIE

What's a better way to get customers into your store than giving away free grub?! Uhhhh, NOTHING. Fired Pie is introducing itself to the Tucson location with free pizza and salads for dine-in diners. Too good to be true? Nope it's true .... BUT the brand is requesting customers to being a non-perishable item to donate to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. 

What is so special about Fired Pie compared to the other fast casual pizza brands around the block? Just like any, you choose your crust, sauce, cheese and toppings, but this pizza only takes 90 seconds. CRAZY FAST. Read more about Fired Pizza here.

Posted on November 24, 2014 .

Freshii Gives Wynwood A Fresh-Over

We all know that Wynwood is Miami's HOTTEST neighborhood, but what is it missing? It has the art, the people, and the vibes.... All Wynwood is missing is some good grub.

PHOTO CREDIT: MIAMINEWTIMES.COM

PHOTO CREDIT: MIAMINEWTIMES.COM

The Canadian chain Freshii has just opened it's doors in Wynwood, serving fresh and healthy fast casual "They [NY] had fresh food, salads, wraps, lousy branding, lousy service, and what I wanted to do was basically create a brand around the ability to customize and eat clean food." And he did just that. Opening their first 100 restaurants faster than Starbucks, McDonald's and Subway, Freshii is soon to expand to great lengths in the US. Coming to Dadeland, Fort Lauderdale, Boca and Jupiter. Read more here.

Posted on November 21, 2014 and filed under Fast Casual.

The Melt Get's More On The Menu

The grilled cheese guru The Melt just announced the launch of new products in their San Francisco-based locations. Their new items include: an original burger melt, spicy mission burger melt, double bacon BBQ burger melt, Caesar spinach bird chicken melt, 'shroom chicken melt, Buffalo chicken melt, truffle grilled cheese melt, trio macaroni + cheese, naked fries with Melt Spice, well-dressed fries with aged cheeses bacon and onions. 

PHOTO CREDIT: THEMELT.COM

PHOTO CREDIT: THEMELT.COM

CEO and Chairperson Jonathan Kaplan reports in a company press release: "Our founding mission was to serve happiness to families through 100% all-natural wholesome American classics, We're thrilled that our new menu is the evolution of our mission to ensure American families can enjoy the foods they love while also being good for you. Read more about The Melt here.

Posted on November 19, 2014 and filed under Fast Casual.