Though U.S. consumption is well below other proteins today, seafood will likely be an increasingly important part of the American diet in the years to come. The country’s population is predicted to grow by 89 million between 2010 and 2050 to 401 million people. More people require more food—and land limitations mean the beef, pork, and poultry industries can only produce so much volume.
Soda sales aren’t exactly bubbling at restaurants these days. In fact, they’ve been declining for years. Despite that, there’s fizz remaining in carbonated beverages as operators look toward craft sodas, new technology, homemade beverages, and creative concoctions to put effervescence into their sparkling libations.
“We’re seeing a lot of craft soda products available in the market, although it’s still very small,” says Joe Pawlak, beverage expert and senior vice president at Chicago market research firm Technomic Inc.
For many brands, the startup years are full of operational struggles, sourcing issues, and slow, if any, growth. But that hasn’t been the case for New York–based Luke’s Lobster, a concept that’s cornered its own niche within the fast-casual industry in five short years.
In the last half decade, Luke’s has paired an entertaining narrative—fresh Maine seafood with roots in a father-son team’s entrenchment in the lobster industry—with a high-quality product in a market where the core menu item, the lobster roll, does not exist in a large-scale fashion.
For the most part, the lobster’s place in restaurants has been restricted to fine dining, where bake-stuffed tails can cost as much as a steak dinner. The other place to find lobsters has been in family-run venues, where white-bibbed diners crack open the shells to get to the good stuff.
But now lobsters are crawling their way into more quick-serve settings, thanks to robust supply levels and high-tech processing plants that can take lobster from the Maine coast to more tables in much shorter times and in fresher forms.
These days in the quick-service and fast-casual restaurant industries, the Millennial reigns supreme. The coveted demographic, approximately 20–35 in age and roughly 80 million members strong in the U.S., is the all-important target whose liberal tastes and propensity for all things digital and social media has forced the industry into a new era of innovation and transparency.
That a strong company culture goes a long way in ensuring the success of a quick serve is no secret, but few brands cultivate that culture with employees’ personal interests and hobbies in mind. At Luke’s Lobster, a New York City–based fast casual with locations in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, corporate leadership invests in staff by supporting and promoting creative endeavors in a homemade literary magazine.
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Gone are the days when the conventional taco truck was the only show in town. Contemporary food trucks slinging gourmet cupcakes, Korean BBQ, and $20 lobster rolls now vie for their share of consumers’ dollars in nearly every city across the U.S.