Bryan Reesman

Driving the Market

The father-son team of 57-year-old Jon S. Crowe and 28-year-old Jon P. Crowe shines at their two Toppers Pizza units in Nebraska. The pair opened a store in Lincoln in February 2012 and one in Omaha this past June. By next summer, they plan to add another new location in each city. The duo’s business savvy garnered them the Franchisee of the Year award from Toppers for 2014, as well as another six-unit franchise agreement.

Straight from the C-Suite

Paul Hitzelberger hasn’t exactly had a normal retirement. After serving as chief marketing officer for Del Taco from 1986 to 2001 and being part owner for all but three years of that time, he chose to take over some of the company’s worst-performing franchise locations, all located in Utah, and turn them around. His wife, Jane, joined the venture to help with administrative tasks, and the pair began to reinvigorate eight locations in the Salt Lake City region.

Today, the Hitzelbergers run 26 units around the city, with two more in development and nine more under consideration.

The Employee Buy-In

For David Beaton, working for Tim Hortons has been a lifelong passion. The Nova Scotia native started working for the 50-year-old Canadian chain after graduating from business school in 1992 and has helped grow its presence in the U.S. His wife, Allanna, a former teacher, has been his partner in the endeavor for the last 15 years.

The couple took over their first two U.S. locations in Lockport and Amherst, New York, in 1999, and since then have steadily amassed a collection of restaurants, now running 25 Tim Hortons units in the Buffalo, New York, area.

Hiring Goes Mobile

It’s no secret that the quick-serve industry has a high turnover rate, and the time and money businesses spend to hire new employees add up fast. But some operators are turning to mobile platforms to change employee hiring and retention strategies, thanks in part to a high percentage of Millennial workers.

“The trend out there is to accommodate certainly the newest generation of worker … with as much of an ability to interact with you as a potential employer via their phone,” says David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, a human resources consulting firm.

The Upper Crust

The fast-casual pizza category is booming with its more personalized customization experience, and traditional quick-serve pizza brands are taking note. Earlier this year, Pizza Hut unveiled its Hand-Tossed pizza as a fresh new option with a lighter crust akin to the fast-casual segment’s artisanal offerings.

“We’ve heard from our consumers that they’re looking for a little more uniqueness in their experiences,” says Doug Terfehr, spokesman. He says the company responded with the most popular way that people get pizza: tossed by hand.

Between the Buns

Fast-casual concepts usher in new era of burger innovation.

Burger restaurant concepts use premium ingredients to capture new customers.
Burger 21's Black Bean Burger includes lettuce, tomato, red onion, salsa, avocado, sun-dried tomato aioli, and cilantro cream on a toasted whole-wheat bun.

The combined influence of better-burger restaurants and the fast-casual customization model has had a profound impact on what burger brands now offer consumers. A recent survey by Chicago-based technology and services company Food Genius, which measures menu mentions at restaurant across the U.S., shows that while traditional ingredients like onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms are still the most popular topping options, more unique foods are taking root at burger concepts across the country.

Build the Buzz

National broadcast advertising creates a large ripple effect across the country, and quick-serve brands are finding that such advertising can be useful in building demand in new and emerging markets.

Using advertisements to build a buzz for a brand that has yet to reach certain regions can lead to consumer excitement and winding lines out the doors of new units, quick-serve brand representatives say.

Even Kids Want Health

New study shows that children are demanding healthier meals from quick serves.

Children consumers demand healthy and customizable menus from quick service.
Salsarita's offers a range of kids' meal options and is developing new items for 2014.

It's no surprise that children love to eat at quick-serve restaurants. But a recent survey by Chicago–based research firm Y-Pulse shows that, beyond a noticeable increase in their favorability ratings for such establishments in the last few years, kids also have higher expectations for the industry, especially when it comes to health and freshness.