Daniel P. Smith

Daniel P. Smith is a regular contributor to <i>QSR.</i>
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Standout Store: Cava Greens

When Patrick Fox opened Cava Greens in 2002, he fashioned it to be the anti–quick serve.

The food court–based eatery inside Denver’s 56-story Republic Plaza dishes up custom, hand-tossed salads alongside a range of fresh and natural offerings. The store resists processed foods in favor of dozens of seasonal foods, including figs, pomegranate seeds, and lean proteins, such as tofu and seared salmon.

Standout Store: Galloping Griz

Food trucks are going to school, and the Galloping Griz is among the latest to enroll.

The University of Montana’s mobile kitchen—which debuted last spring with a $167,000 price tag—provides late-night dishes, namely Mexican-style street food, to the university’s flagship campus in Missoula. It also serves breakfast and lunch offerings to a satellite campus located just five miles away.

Mark LoParco, director of university dining services, discusses the decision to invest in a food truck and the opportunities a mobile eatery brings.

Standout Store: Bountiful Eatery

After holding various positions in the Darden enterprise and managing a Chicago-area Panera Bread, Ed O’Brien tired of working for others. Eager to become his own boss, O’Brien opened Bountiful Eatery in July 2012.

Sandwiched between an ice cream shop and a pizza parlor, the Chicago-based restaurant offers a gluten-free menu of pita wraps filled with fresh produce, as well as an assortment of soups, stews, and chili made with seasonal ingredients.

The Whataburger Way

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, down the block from a McDonald’s and around the corner from a Jason’s Deli, Whataburger store No. 304 on Peoria Avenue features the same iconic, orange-and-white, A-frame exterior as nearly every other restaurant in the 740-unit Whataburger system. It serves the same quarter-pound hamburgers on five-inch buns, and its people inside display the same friendly demeanor that has catapulted the Whataburger brand through seven decades.

2013 Best Franchise Deals

It’s back and bigger than ever. Now in its fourth year, our “Best Franchise Deals” report has become the can’t-miss list of top quick-service and fast-casual franchises, assessing factors such as investment-to-sales ratio, marketplace differentiation, corporate support to franchisees, and positive brand momentum.

Standout Store: Solar Roast Coffee

What do you get when you combine a satellite dish, a stockpot, a broccoli steamer, and a car jack? The origins of Solar Roast Coffee, a Pueblo, Colorado–based outlet serving solar power–roasted coffee.

Initially more of a science project than a business concept, brothers Mike and David Hartkop founded Solar Roast in Oregon in 2004 after creating a one-pound roaster from the aforementioned spare parts. After three years of selling their beans online and to wholesale accounts, the brothers took their act to Colorado in 2007.

Keep In Touch

When George Michel took the chief executive reins at Boston Market in October 2010, he inherited a concept with a tumultuous 25-year history that included bankruptcy, a headline-grabbing purchase—and subsequent sale—by McDonald’s, uneven numbers, and fading consumer interest.

In no time, though, Michel instituted a number of changes to stabilize Boston Market, including one unusual initiative: making interaction with restaurant guests one of his top priorities. “Being close to the customer is critically important,” he says. “I get to learn what they value, what they appreciate.”

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