Emerging Concepts | July 2014 | By Marlee Murphy

Where Are They Now?

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QSR has singled out quick service restaurants like Toppers Pizza as emerging concepts.
Toppers has grown from 18 units to 57 since it was featured as One to Watch in July 2008. Toppers Pizza
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NOT

Rasoee

Originally featured: February 2008

Then: 6 units • Now: 0 units

When discussing potential challenges in 2008, Rasoee president Nipun Sharma voiced his concerns for running a fast-casual Indian restaurant. Sharma said Indian food is not only one of the most difficult cuisines to prepare due to the 20–30 spices added throughout the cooking process, but it also was not yet very popular with North American consumers.

Rasoee had plans to grow from six to 20 locations by the end of 2008, along with dreams of worldwide expansion, but those dreams did not become reality. Whether due to the recession or the difficulty in maintaining an Indian fast casual, the brand no longer has any operating stores.

Vapiano

Originally featured: May 2008

Then: 32 U.S. units • Now: 11 U.S. units (129 international)

In 2007, up-and-coming European chain Vapiano landed its first store in the Washington, D.C., area. President Kent Hahne believed Vapiano’s high-style, luxurious atmosphere, innovative technology, and fresh, high-quality Italian offerings would set the concept apart from competitors. And while the learning curve for a new chip-card ordering technology proved troublesome for the first Vapiano U.S. locations, the chain continued to grow.

However, relatively high start-up and operational costs have negatively affected expansion efforts in the U.S. After six years, Vapiano has only 11 domestic locations operating in medium- and large-size markets.

Pretzel Boy’s

Originally featured: April 2009 • Then: 11 units • Now: 3 units

Rewind five years: Pretzel Boy’s is at the top of its game. The chain had just snagged “Best of Philly” and “Best of Delaware” awards. President and CEO Tim Dever was particularly proud of the attention Pretzel Boy’s gained when the brand was featured on the Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” Stores were churning out between 3,500 and 4,500 pretzels a day.

Today, however, the Pretzel Boy’s corporate website is no longer in operation, while the brand’s presence remains only in three separate franchised locations.

Catfish One

Originally featured: August 2009 • Then: 40 units • Now: 0 units

After overcoming the Hurricane Katrina devastation, Catfish One executives believed they were on the road to recovery and growth. The brand rebuilt three stores following the hurricane and modified numerous locations to provide seating and a drive thru.

In 2009, president Joe-Michael Robertson said the brand would take the tortoise approach to expansion instead of the hare. But slow and steady didn’t win the race; Catfish One no longer has any stores in operation.

Tasti D-Lite

Originally featured: April 2011 • Then: 63 units • Now: 44 units

In 2011, New York–born Tasti D-Lite’s expansion hopes were high. The frozen dessert concept had received a visit from country music superstar Taylor Swift and had gained unsolicited exposure on TV shows like “Sex in the City” and “The Apprentice.” CEO Jim Amos believed Tasti D-Lite’s healthier product would set the concept apart from the growing crop of dessert brands.

But the brand’s plan to open 50 domestic and 14 international stores that year fell flat. While Tasti D-Lite has remained a leader in New York City, the concept’s presence has lagged in other markets.

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