Barney Wolf

Barney Wolf is an Ohio-based freelancer for <em>QSR</em> magazine.

Flavors of the World

Although most restaurants will change ingredients in an entrée to meet a guest’s request, a growing number of pizza and ethnic eateries are letting diners build their own menu items from scratch.

“It’s a system that delicatessens and street-food vendors worldwide have used for years. For many consumers, the concept of having restaurant staff assemble fresh, high-quality food in front of you to your design has great appeal,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago-based market research firm Technomic Inc.

Right on ’Cue

A great way to start an argument is to talk about America’s best barbecue. It’s a dispute that won’t be resolved.

“A lot depends on where you were raised, because you get an emotional allegiance to one particular type of barbecue,” says Peter Reinhart, chef on assignment in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University’s Charlotte, North Carolina, campus.

Wonder Food

Look, up on the table! It’s a burdock. It’s a plantain. It’s … superfood!

Although there’s nothing really super-heroic about eating nutrition-rich fruits and vegetables, the foods give customers an opportunity to pursue healthier options at a time when many Americans are trying to rein in their eating habits. As such, these ingredients are showing up on more limited-service restaurant
menus.

Recapping the NRA Show

New food, equipment innovations point to future of restaurant industry.

Innovations like the Marinara Tower were featured on the NRA Show floor.
Terry Douglass and Eric Ribarits puts skewers of bread in the Marinara Tower at the NRA Show. Barney Wolf

As the lights went out on the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (NRA Show) in Chicago on Tuesday, there was plenty to consider about the future of the industry.

The show featured no shortage of technological advancements, not just in computing hardware and software, but also in equipment and food-safety solutions.

Small Portions a Big Idea

Small portions are very big these days.

Many 2013 trend predictions determined that small plates and snacking are expected to be popular among chefs and restaurant operators this year. While diners are still eating during the traditional meal times—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—they are eating less at those times, opting instead to have five or more smaller meals a day.

Finally! Wendy’s Debuts Flatbread

Burger giant rolls out new menu option after lengthy development process.

After two years of planning, trials, tests, retooling, and finding a vendor willing to spend millions on a new ingredient, Wendy’s is rolling out its latest offering: Flatbread Grilled Chicken Sandwiches.

The Smoky Honey Mustard and Asiago Ranch limited-time offers hit stores nationwide this week in an effort to compete with flatbreads from Subway, Panera Bread, and other quick-serve brands.

Dressing Up

Not that long ago, consumers visited limited-service restaurants mostly for items such as burgers, fried chicken, french fries, and sandwiches. But in the past two decades, salads have become an integral part of quick-service and fast-casual menus, now showcased as a prominent entrée on many restaurants’ menuboards.

“The great story of the last 20 years is that salads moved to the center of the plate,” says Paul Steck, president of Philadelphia-based Saladworks, the nation’s largest salad chain with more than 100 units in 11 states.

Bringing the Juice

Juice isn’t just for kids, and it’s not just a breakfast option. As busy Americans seek quick, better-for-you options at all day- parts, juice has become a more critical part of their regular diet.

Juice’s healthy halo might encourage restaurants to move beyond serving just old favorites like orange and apple juice. There is a wide range of fruit and vegetable juice options, as well as flavored waters and low-calorie juice drinks, that can expand a quick serve’s beverage menu.

Taking Stock of 2012

Quick-service restaurant shares outperformed the overall stock market in 2012.

Good Times used same store sales growth and a new breakfast menu to build stocks
Good Times used same-store sales growth and a new breakfast menu to build stocks.

Good Times Restaurants had a good time on the stock market last year. The 39-unit, Golden, Colorado–based burger chain used growing same-store sales and a new breakfast menu to help double its stock price during 2012, making the company the best equity performer among restaurant chains for the full year.

That fact is all the more impressive considering restaurant shares outperformed the overall market last year, even amidst bustling corporate activity that included mergers, acquisitions, new stock offerings, and special dividends.

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