Robert Lillegard

The 5 in 5

In the highly competitive restaurant industry, where innovation reigns, a lot can happen in the span of half a decade. Five years ago, the quick-serve industry was a different place. Five Guys was mostly a regional player and the better-burger category had yet to explode. Chipotle started making headlines with its commitment to sustainable food. And operators were raving about hot trends like eco-friendly packaging and the renewed focus on coffee.

Stepping Up to Fast Casual

Quick-serve companies roll out fast-casual concepts to serve new demographics.

Yoshinoya hopes its Asiana Grill fast-casual concept draws new demographics.
Yoshinoya hopes its Asiana Grill fast-casual concept draws new demographics.

On May 30, Yoshinoya America opened the first-ever Asiana Grill Yoshinoya in Fullerton, California. While the company has long been known in California and Nevada for its quick-service concept, the Asiana Grill Yoshinoya marks its first foray into fast casual.

Charity, Brand are Ties that Bind

Quick serves find that charitable efforts are a good opportunity to build the brand, too.

Firehouse Subs raised $350,000 at last year's tennis tournament.
Firehouse Subs raised $350,000 at last year's Men’s Doubles Tennis Tournament.

From May 18–20, Firehouse Subs hosted the annual Firehouse Subs Men’s Doubles Tennis Tournament, which featured hot subs, face painting and bounce houses for children, and tennis matches played by nationally ranked players.

The tournament is an integral part of the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and helps equip, educate, and fund public safety entities—a mission close to the heart of the brand’s founders, who were firemen.

Summer LTOs Heat Up Menus

Chains return to the basics with their summer promotions.

Daphne's Chicken Strawberry Salad was a hit as an LTO last summer.
Daphne's Chicken Strawberry Salad was a hit as an LTO last summer.

Summer is fast approaching, and with it comes this summer’s crop of seasonal limited-time offers from quick-serve and fast-casual chains. From retro ice cream flavors to salad-sandwich combinations, brands are looking to attract customers with innovation this summer while hearkening back to tried-and-true favorites.

SBUX Blend Heats Up Competition

Company’s lighter roast will help it compete against Dunkin’ in retail.

After 40 years of staking its reputation on dark and medium coffee roasts, Starbucks began offering a light roast on January 10.

The Seattle-based coffee giant launched its new Blonde roast across the country in what some believe is a response to the growth of coffee competitors like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Top 7 Quick Serve Trends for 2012

Experts predict what consumers will want most in the New Year.

Where will the quick serve industry be one year from now? That’s never been an easy question to answer, but these days it seems harder then ever.

The economy continues to lurch wildly back and forth, sending stocks (and consumer confidence) up, down, and then up and down again. Tax laws, healthcare costs, and minimum wage requirements are beginning their classic election year dance. And Apple and Google are ensuring that whatever mobile technology quick serves adapted to last week will be obsolete by this Thursday—at the latest.

The New Food Court

With mall vacancies at a high, the food court is becoming more important.

Ever since the first farmers packed up their produce to sell in the town square, food has been an important part of the shopping experience. But lately, it seems the food is better than ever.

At the Macy’s in Chicago, celebrity chefs like Rick Bayless have set up shop with their own quick-service or fast-casual restaurants. In London, luxury department store Harrods boasts 30 restaurants ranging from casual to opulent. And these aren’t the only places beefing up their food offerings.

One for the Road?

If you haven’t seen the “Fast Food Folk Song,” it’s worth a look on YouTube.

Comedians Rhett and Link pull up to a Taco Bell drive thru, and when they’re asked what they’d like to eat, they launch into an elaborate folk song. Their song, which includes lines like “I’ll choose a chalupa, I’ll grab a gordita, and two taco salads for our senoritas,” ultimately tops out at 15 separate items and includes special instructions like “no diced tomatoes” or “extra sour cream.”