Growth | September 2014 | By Tamara Omazic

A Birthday Bash

Quick serves celebrate anniversary milestones with promotions, limited-time offers, and brand revamps.
Quick service brands honor history with deals and promotions.
At 95, A&W is one of the oldest fast-food businesses in operation. flickr / Thomas Hawk

From a 95-year-old fast-food founding father to a five-year-old upstart, several quick-serve brands celebrate important anniversaries this year. While some have been modest in their celebrations, others are throwing company-wide bashes and passing on savings to guests through promotional deals. A select few are even taking the special occasion to revamp.

Here are 18 brands celebrating milestones in 2014—and how each has left its mark on the rest of the industry.


Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint

5 years

Atlanta-based Uncle Maddio’s rang in five years with accelerated growth plans and a commitment to its “Served with Love” motto. At 19 units strong, the fast-casual pizza chain has a presence in 16 states and nearly 200 stores in development. To ensure quality consistency across all locations, the brand began offering a guarantee to its guests: If a customer isn’t completely satisfied with his or her experience, the pizza joint will build a new pie or issue a refund.

In January, as a way to bring customers into the brand’s celebration, Uncle Maddio’s launched a $5.55 pizza deal on Mondays at its original Atlanta location, extending the promotion to all units in March.

Shake Shack

10 years

What began as a humble hot dog cart in New York City’s Madison Square Park grew into a 23-unit better-burger brand with a cult following across the East Coast in 10 short years, much to the surprise of company owners.

“We never intended to build a second Shake Shack; this was a restaurant that was meant to be a little kiosk that supported the park,” says CEO Randy Garutti. “It took us almost five years to build a second one at the end of 2008.”

The brand’s loyal fans were treated to a weeklong celebration in early June at the original Shake Shack location, when its executives teamed up with five fine-dining chefs, including Daniel Boulud and David Chang, to present special-edition burgers. The week culminated with a blowout celebration on June 12 with live music, free birthday cake, and a specialty beer on tap at Madison Square Park.

“It turned into something bigger than we ever dreamed,” Garutti says. “People waited five or six hours for burgers.”

Brand executives are approaching the next 10 years of national and international growth with a commitment to the Shack’s roots. “The bigger we get, the smaller we need to act,” Garutti says. “When we decide to act small and do things like what we did with our celebration, people remember why Shake Shack is what it is. That gives us great confidence for decades to come.”

Wetzel’s Pretzels

20 years

A fresh-baked soft pretzel is the vessel for culinary innovation that’s helped California-based Wetzel’s Pretzels reach its 20-year milestone. With a menu of savory and sweet options that includes flavors like Almond Crunch and Jalapeño Cheese Melt, the pretzel brand has expanded its footprint across the western U.S. and into international markets, with new units in Brazil, Malaysia, and Russia opening this year.

A constant flow of limited-time specials keeps Wetzel’s from going stale after two decades in the limited-service business; it recently introduced Wetzel Dog Bites, a mini version of the brand’s popular pretzel-wrapped hot dog.

Firehouse Subs

20 years

The folks at Firehouse Subs aren’t sounding any alarms for the sandwich franchise’s 20th birthday, but they are continuing to churn out what’s helped the brand grow to 770-plus units in the U.S.: good food and community engagement.

On the heels of a record-breaking 2013, the brand rolled out its Hearty & Flavorful, Under 500 Calories menu, featuring six sandwiches and four chopped salads, to appeal to the growing number of health-conscious consumers. It’s also continuing to raise funds for the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which donates millions annually to public safety organizations and first responders in communities across the country.


20 years

Garland, Texas, is the birthplace of this chicken-wing brand poised for continued growth across the U.S. and in various international markets. After celebrating the opening of the brand’s 600th unit, Wingstop executives announced aggressive expansion plans along the East Coast, with a focus on markets populated with young and ethnically diverse consumers. Upping the ante overseas, Wingstop also increased its unit count in Russia, Mexico, and Singapore and planted its flag in the Philippines and Indonesia.

The Wingstop menu also had some festive additions for the 20-year anniversary. In March, guests were treated to a new Chili Lime flavor, and the popular Mango Habanero LTO made a return for summer to appease consumer demand.


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