Kevin Kester’s family has been farming in the U.S. for generations. And it’s not just a couple of generations they’ve been farming; more like generations upon generations, way back to the 1600s, specifically in California since the 1860s. Today, Kester owns a 22,000-acre beef cattle ranch in California’s Monterey and Fresno counties, near Paso Robles. In the middle of the state, it’s at the “bull’s eye,” he says, of the worst drought that he—and several generations before him—has ever seen.
Sam Oches is <i>QSR</i>’s editor.
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The fast-casual renaissance that has taken over the restaurant industry in the last decade has lately infused excitement and momentum into the broader limited-service sector. Market research firm Mintel found that sales at fast-casual restaurants grew 10.5 percent last year, compared with 6.1 percent growth from quick-service restaurants.
McDonald’s has long served as a de facto leader of the limited-service restaurant space. Far and away the largest quick-service company in the U.S. by system-wide sales, the Golden Arches has for generations been the model for fast-food stability and achievement, the benchmark against which all other quick serves are measured.
On July 1, 2013, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit consumer advocate organization that conducts research on health and nutrition, issued a statement declaring the “worst restaurant meal in America.” The meal in question, it said, included 33 grams of trans fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, nearly 3,700 milligrams of sodium, and 1,320 calories; CSPI took particular umbrage with the meal’s use of partially hydrogenated oil, an ingredient that creates trans fat, which is bad for cholesterol.
The phone number is emailed to me, and I’m surprised to see it’s only 10 digits. No dial-in information, no confirmation code, no announce yourself after the beep. Just a plain and simple phone number, area code Los Angeles.
A lot has been said about the dramatic transformation the limited-service restaurant industry has experienced in the last five to 10 years. Observers have noted a range of factors that have shoved along the change, from the pressures to offer healthier food to younger generations’ desire for more creative menu opportunities.
I worked in the fashion business, so I became super focused and super aware of the importance of health and wellness and looking great in front of cameras through my first job out of college. And I basically surrounded myself with a bunch of these mom-and-pop delis in Manhattan that were catering to fashionistas and designers, and became a customer of many of these fresh food bars that, while they had very fresh healthy food, they had really dull branding and really lackluster service. There really were no places that catered to convenient, affordable, healthy eating.
Four hundred and fifty million dollars. That’s $450 million—nearly half a billion dollars. It’s a big chunk of change, approximately what McAlister’s Deli and Auntie Anne’s each did in system-wide sales last year.
I guess I was 14 when I first got into the restaurant business. My father owned nine Wendy’s down in north-central Florida, and when I would go visit him in the summer, I would work in the restaurants. I still have my first paycheck framed in my office. I think it was for $84.