Every year, many of us anxiously await the release of Technomic’s Fast Casual Top 100 report. Technomic’s Darren Tristano, one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry, gave me an interview and a sneak peek at the report. Here are his thoughts, followed by a few of my own.
Darren, what is the size of the fast-casual segment (2010)?
College campuses have become a hotbed of competition for quick-service brands interested in taking advantage of a young, hungry demographic. Now sustainable food co-ops mean additional competition from a grassroots movement that is trying to shift students’ perceptions of foodservice.
At the center of this competitive trend is the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFed), an organization that offers support services for students across the country who hope to create their own sustainable quick-service options on college campuses.
Last week QSR's in-house fast-casual expert, George Green, snagged the interview of the season with Darren Tristano, executive vice president at leading research firm Technomic. Not only did he get Tristano's coveted insight on the fast-casual industry, he gained exclusive access to the highly anticipated Fast Casual Top 100 Report.
Below is Green's first-hand account of his time with Tristano as well as his own analysis of the study, which comes out next week.
Panda Restaurant Group Inc., parent company of Panda Express, announced a fundraising campaign to assist with disaster relief in Japan. Following the massive, magnitude 9.0 earthquake and 32-foot tsunami that left thousands dead and injured and caused extreme damage to coastal areas and communities, Panda Restaurant Group has committed to raising funds through in-store and corporate associate donations to help provide resources to those in need during this devastating time.
Panda Express, the nation’s leader in Asian dining experiences, unveiled its newest entrée, Golden Treasure Shrimp.
The dish is created with crispy tempura shrimp and red and green bell peppers wok-tossed in Panda’s zesty, new citrus sauce.
"Golden Treasure Shrimp will delight those who seek new and exciting flavors," says Andy Kao, executive chef for Panda Express. "During market tests across the country, Golden Treasure Shrimp received rave reviews, even higher than those for our famous Honey Walnut Shrimp."
Panda Express kicked off the 2011 Chinese New Year holiday by opening up its test kitchen for the first time ever to media, looking for the biggest “Wok Star” among Southern California bloggers. Catherine Chaplin, writer of www.gastronomyblog.com, and Nha-Quyen Gln, writer of www.kitchenrunway.com, won the “Wok Star” challenge with their “Spicy Jackfruit Chicken“ dish and received a $500 prize to which they donated to Cooking Matters Los Angeles and the Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue.
Panda Express kicks off the 2011 Chinese New Year holiday by bringing back a special menu item for a limited time only: spicy Firecracker Chicken Breast. The Chinese New Year entrée features strips of marinated chicken breast; red, green, and yellow bell peppers; sliced onions; and red chili peppers, all cooked in a wok with Panda’s original zesty firecracker sauce. Panda Express will also be offering a coupon for a free single-sized portion of Firecracker Chicken Breast to Facebook fans, for one day only on February 3, the first day of the 15-day-long holiday celebration.
In an economic climate full of uncertainty and change, many businesses have turned to interim executives to right the ship. The quick-serve industry is no different. In June, Denny’s Corp. named chairwoman Debra Smithart-Oglesby interim CEO after Nelson Marchioli left the company. In August, El Pollo Loco chose Steve Sather to serve as acting president and chief executive when former CEO Steve Carley left for the same position at Red Robin.