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.
Sam Oches is <i>QSR</i>’s editor.
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I never thought I would be an owner of a quick-service restaurant brand; I actually received my economics degree at Stanford. Being in the San Francisco area, however, I happened to wander onto a movie set that was shooting in the Bay Area. After witnessing the movie-catering business, I ended up starting my own company and started to be on film sets all over the world, serving clients like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, and even had the opportunity of catering for former president Bill Clinton. Part of our elevated menu were our pizzas, and Pitfire Artisan Pizza was born in 1997.
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.
When I started to look at this business, what I truly found beautiful was being able to bring my family every day. I am able to feed my children the very same products I strive to sell to the world. I love the foodservice business for that reason, but specifically Smoothie King for allowing me to have that feeling of satisfaction when offering my family the product we sell globally. I remember being in college and always looking at a late-night smoothie as a “sin-free” food.
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.