Looking to include some up-and-coming fast-casuals operations as branded retail options? Here's a list to spur some thinking.
Every year, Technomic, the research sibling of FoodService Director, partners with sister magazine Restaurant Business to rank the 50 fastest-growing small- to medium-sized restaurant chains. We’ve highlighted six fast-casuals from the list who are putting their unique spin on the fast-casual business.
1. Pizza Studio: Pizza in two minutes
Pizza Studio prides itself on its two-minute conveyor belt cooking method, intended for facilities where consumers are normally on the run. It may soon become a more familiar brand. In November, the fast-causal chain received a cash injection from Thompson Hospitality, the largest minority-owned foodservice management company and the chain’s largest franchisee. Since the investment, the chain says it plans to open 80 more locations.
2. Lemonade: A modern take on the cafeteria
Based out of Southern California, Lemonade puts a modern twist on the cafeteria experience. This fast casual pays homage to its roots by offering a seasonal menu of California-inspired comfort foods made in-house daily. Its specialty is a pot roast sandwich.
With a bright and colorful environment and nutrition-focused menu items, Lemonade aims to target consumers who have an on-the-go lifestyle but make an effort to eat healthy. The chain has traditionally been located in Southern California, but has since expanded north with a location in San Francisco.
3. Just Salad: An environmentally conscious fast casual
With local, sustainable and GMO-free food options as well as a reusable bowls program, Just Salad has become a hit with environmentally conscious consumers. This winter, Panda Express acquired 33% of the chain and is looking to grow it. Along with its expansion efforts, the chain is also strengthening its grasp on technology. Just Salad recently teamed up with subscription lunch program MealPass and is rolling out an app with mobile payment.
4. Modern Market: Aiming for healthy, affordable meals
Paleo, gluten free, vegan and vegetarian consumers might feel right at home at Modern Market. This fast casual offers healthy and holistic meals for what it says is an affordable price—around $10. Many of its dishes, including pizzas, are made from scratch, and all of its ingredients are locally sourced. The chain also offers healthy menu items specifically for kids.
5. Salata: A customizable salad or wrap
Over 50 ingredients and 10 housemade dressings are featured at Salata, making the possible combinations for its custom-built salads and wraps seemingly endless. Self-dubbed as “the next-generation salad bar,” the chain offers fresh lettuce, fruit and vegetables daily, as well as gluten-free soups. Salata has placed an emphasis on its catering program, which targets the working lunch crowd.
6. Torchy’s Tacos: A twist on tacos
This funky fast casual tries to set itself apart not just with its “Damn Good” tacos made with on-trend ingredients, but also by competing at breakfast with egg-filled options. Launching its first out-of-state location last year, it’s popular for its not-so-secret menu and Taco of the Month program, with some proceeds going to a charitable cause. Past options have included a chicken-and-waffle taco and Asian-inspired tuk tuk tacos. Keeping consumers’ dietary needs in mind, the chain offers vegetarian and gluten-free tacos as well.