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.
Daniel P. Smith
Daniel P. Smith is a regular contributor to <i>QSR.</i>
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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.
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.”
Inside Smashburger’s newest Chicago-area restaurant, a hip-looking joint in the city’s trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood, company founder and chief concept officer Tom Ryan holds up the brand’s Windy City Burger as if it’s Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Packed with layers of melted Cheddar cheese, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato, and spicy mustard on a pretzel bun, the Windy City Burger is the fast-casual chain’s exclusive offering for the Chicago market and continues Smashburger’s six-year run of creating local burgers across its 209-store national footprint.
Travel guide Frommer’s calls gelato a “Florentine institution” and “a craft taken seriously by all.” It also labels Vivoli as “the city’s institution.” Now, after more than eight decades serving its homemade gelato in Florence, Italy, Vivoli has finally hopped the Atlantic and set up stateside.
On Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s 17th Street, tucked in the shadow of giants Chipotle and Panera Bread, an upstart burger joint dreams of someday entering the same upper ranks of the fast-casual world that those two brands helped create. Though the restaurant carries a familiar name, its vibe is decidedly fresh.
Welcome to Shula Burger.
In a push to distinguish itself from growing competition in the fast-casual bakery-café space, Corner Bakery Café is doubling down on menu innovation.
The 22-year-old, Dallas-based chain recently leveraged its high-quality kitchen equipment and capabilities, as well as more than 40 fresh fruits and vegetables delivered daily to its stores, to launch a handful of seasonal offerings.
Adam Goldman entered the Dunkin’ Donuts system in 2010, purchasing a pair of stores in Paterson, New Jersey, that included a forgotten downtown spot.
With an entrepreneurial spirit, Goldman raised the downtown unit’s prospects with an unrelenting focus on fresh product and high-level customer service. Today, Goldman’s shop is enjoying its second consecutive year of double-digit sales growth.
The 45-year-old former IBM executive discusses his store’s turnaround.
What immediate changes did you make?
Dr. Ruth Kava isn’t concerned with the hype or hyperbole, emotion or ideology. She’s after one result: scientific accuracy.
A senior nutrition fellow with the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a New York–based organization that highlights peer-reviewed science to encourage more sensible public health policy, Kava has watched the rising vitriol against trans fat, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and sodium in recent years. She fears the finger-pointing is overshadowing important facts.
At the world’s largest children’s museum, healthy eating is on display.
Spurred by the National Restaurant Association and Healthy Dining—an organization dedicated to helping people maintain healthier lifestyles—The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis became the globe’s first museum to embrace the Kids LiveWell initiative when it debuted a revised, nutritionally tuned menu last summer.
The museum’s traditional fast-food fare has been replaced by healthier, yet still kid-friendly, options, such as grilled chicken dippers and whole-wheat pasta.