Flavors of the World

Although most restaurants will change ingredients in an entrée to meet a guest’s request, a growing number of pizza and ethnic eateries are letting diners build their own menu items from scratch.

“It’s a system that delicatessens and street-food vendors worldwide have used for years. For many consumers, the concept of having restaurant staff assemble fresh, high-quality food in front of you to your design has great appeal,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago-based market research firm Technomic Inc.

From the Outside Looking In

For many leaders in the quick-service industry, the restaurant business is their lifeblood. Many start out as a dishwasher, cook, or cashier and work their way up through the ranks.

But for some CEOs, the quick-service industry represents a clean break from their successful careers in other fields, like banking and technology. As a result, these leaders bring a unique set of skills, experiences, and entrepreneurial spirit to their new endeavor.

12 for ’12

Our athletes went to the Olympics, our science went to Mars, and our people went to the polls. But what of the restaurant industry in 2012? These dozen items from the year had the biggest impact on the foodservice landscape and shaped the industry for a potentially game-changing 2013.

An Economy in Flux

The economic recovery isn’t lighting a fire under anyone’s feet, but the economy did at least improve, albeit slightly.

How to Grow Your Ethnic Brand

Steven Chan, founder of Tin Drum AsiaCafe, will present at this year's Dine America conference in Atlanta on September 12-14.

With more and more consumers diving into exotic flavors, the idea of opening an ethnic quick serve is becoming more feasible than ever for operators with diverse culinary backgrounds.

And with ethnic minorities poised to become the majority in just a few short decades, limited-service ethnic concepts are only poised to increase in the future, says Qaiser Kazmi, founder and CEO of Merzi, a Washington, D.C.–based fast-casual Indian concept “with a British accent.” At Merzi, Kazmi blends the English influence of his youth with traditional Indian flavors.

Merzi Ready to Take Indian Food to the Masses

Merzi, the Washington, D.C.–based fast casual that has been compared to an Indian version of Chipotle, has been so successful that founder Qaiser Kazmi says it is finally prepared to open unit No. 2—and many, many more.

“We think by the end of this year we should have another three or four units opening, and then next year the growth really kicks in,” Kazmi says, adding that the company is still looking for real estate for its second unit.

“I think we could go for another 10, 15 stores next year, and then after that we should be doing at least 25 stores every year.”