Category Archives: Quick Service

New York City once repelled fast-food chains. Now it is their hottest market

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By Aaron Elstein
http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20171106/SMALLBIZ/171109948/new-york-city-once-repelled-fast-food-chains-now-taco-bell-chik-fil-a-and-more-think-its-the-place-to-eat-fast-food

The busiest place in town during lunch hour is the Chick-fil-A at the corner of West 37th Street and Sixth Avenue, where a fried chicken sandwich is sold every six seconds. To keep the frenzy from turning into a free-for-all, staffers are trained to be scrupulously polite. “I always ask them, ‘Did you bring your smile to work today?'” said the restaurant’s owner, Oscar Fittipaldi, who opened the Atlanta-based chain’s first standalone New York outpost two years ago.

The Garment District franchise sells more than 3,000 sandwiches a day, often with a side of waffle fries, and generates about $13 million in revenue, Crain’s estimated based on data from Fittipaldi. That means it sees the same revenue as Balthazar, the chic SoHo brasserie where the average check is $70, nearly seven times a typical Chick-fil-A tab.

The company wouldn’t comment on Fittipaldi’s revenue, but his success is clearly drawing a slew of followers. Chick-fil-A has plans to open roughly 12 more restaurants in the city, starting next year with a 5-story, 12,000-square-foot emporium in the Financial District. In September Taco Bell announced plans to triple its current 25-store city footprint, and Five Guys, which has grown to about 20 restaurants here since 2009, will soon be opening another one near Fittipaldi’s Chick-fil-A.

New York City is quickly becoming the capital of fast-food nation. More chains are moving in to replace diners and other independent restaurants forced out by relentlessly rising rents. Although many chains have broadened their menus and are experimenting with fast-casual dining, the bread and butter for most remains fried meat and a hefty soft drink.

“Fast-food chains used to draw a skull and crossbones around New York when they were looking for places to expand,” said Gary Occhiogrosso, who runs consulting firm Franchise Growth Solutions. “Now they all want to be here.”

In 2008 the Center for an Urban Future began tracking the growth of local chain retailers and restaurants, and counted about 5,400 city locations. By last year the figure had grown by more than a third, to 7,300. What struck Executive Director Jonathan Bowles was that one sector was responsible.

“All the growth is in food,” Bowles said.

Today New York is home to 3,419 chain-restaurant locations, according to the Department of Health. Leading the march is Dunkin’ Donuts, which has 596 city stores, a 75% increase since 2008. Over the past four years, meanwhile, the number of independent restaurants has declined by 8%.

Chain ganging
While chains still represent a minority of the city’s 26,546 restaurants and bars, their growth is startling because fast-food purveyors have been a popular punching bag for city officials for more than a quarter century. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned trans fats from cooking oils and forced fast-food restaurants to post calorie counts for all menu items so people could better understand the health implications of what they were eating. Earlier this year the city also required restaurants to post sodium content.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo targeted the industry with legislation raising the minimum wage for fast-food workers until it reaches $15 per hour at the end of next year. And Mayor Bill de Blasio has singled out fast-food companies, claiming they are especially exploitive of their 65,000-strong New York workforce.

“If you want an example of how the 1% have gotten wealthier on the backs of working people, here you have it: the fast-food industry,” he said last year.

So why are these restaurants growing in such a seemingly hostile environment? Turns out, the environment isn’t so hostile after all.

A record 4.4 million New Yorkers are employed, and many want something fast and cheap for lunch. Tourism has doubled in the past 20 years, to more than 60 million, and many visitors look for familiar fare to munch on. And while there appears to be a glut of fast-food restaurants across the country—which experts see as a growing threat to the industry as a whole—New York is still relatively underrepresented. According to the Department of Labor, only 2% of the city’s private-sector employees work in limited-service restaurants, compared with 4% nationally.

“There are some big opportunities for fast food in New York because foot traffic is tremendous,” said David Henkes, a senior principal at consulting firm Technomic. “For the chains, premier locations here are all about showing their colors and strength.”

Those premier locations don’t come cheap, but fast-food joints are well-positioned to pay the rent because many of the busiest locations are company-owned or controlled by large operators. The city’s leading Wendy’s franchisee, for example, is The Briad Group, a New Jersey–based firm with 21 locations in the five boroughs, plus about 60 TGI Fridays and at least two Hilton hotels.

Fast-food restaurants are also expanding to create more locations to distribute their food to home-delivery outfits like UberEats and Seamless, said Nick Colas, co-founder of market analysis firm Datatrek Research. “The best way to get orders quickly to people who use these services is to have restaurants scattered around the city,” he said.

That growth is not only changing city storefronts; it’s also making New York’s traffic worse. Because fast-food restaurants often have little storage space, they require frequent food deliveries, which means more trucks on the streets. Mark Solasz, a vice president at Master Purveyors, a Bronx-based firm that supplies meat to about 400 restaurants, including local chains such as burger spot J.G. Melon, said the only way he can cope with soaring demand is by deploying bigger vehicles. “We’re sometimes doing three deliveries a day,” he said. Last month the mayor responded to the growing crush by announcing a pilot program banning deliveries on the city’s most congested streets during morning and evening rush hours.

At the same time, overall restaurant-industry sales are stagnating, so the name of the game is to seize market share from rivals. The environment plays to the strength of fast-food giants with vast marketing resources and purchasing power. And it helps explain why share prices of McDonald’s and the company that owns Burger King and Popeyes are up 53% and 49%, respectively, over the past 12 months.

In addition, steakhouses catering to the expense-account set have struggled: Del Frisco’s stock is down 2%. “Momentum is really on the side of quick-service restaurants,” Henkes said.

Before the Big Mac
Fast food came to New York relatively late. The first McDonald’s in Manhattan, at the corner of West 96th Street and Broadway, did not open until 1972, seven years after Wall Street bankers took the company public. The response was rapturous.

“A rush of pleasure surges through my body as it makes contact with my tongue,” a Village Voice reporter wrote. “The ecstasy is complete as I swallow the first bite of a Big Mac.”

The thrill didn’t last. In 1974 McDonald’s attempt to open an Upper East Side location was greeted by a group called the Friends of 65th Street, who gathered 15,000 signatures demanding the Golden Arches stay out. The New York Times wrote a disapproving editorial, and McDonald’s slunk away. “For the first time, we were on the defensive,” an executive said, according to John Love’s book, McDonald’s: Behind the Arches.

That was just the beginning of fast-food’s woes in New York. In 1986 McDonald’s agreed to begin disclosing nutritional information after state Attorney General Robert Abrams began investigating how the company marketed its McNuggets. Burger King followed in 1991, under pressure from the Dinkins administration’s Consumer Affairs commissioner, Mark Green. The 2004 movie Super Size Me also caused a big stir by documenting how filmmaker Morgan Spurlock gained 24 pounds after exclusively eating at McDonald’s for a month.

Fast food has long been linked to ill health. But it looks as if calorie postings are not doing much to stem demand. In a study last year, researchers at New York University found that only about 1 in 12 customers chose a healthier option after seeing calorie counts on fast-food menus.

“Dietary changes are more difficult than anything we’ve tackled,” said Beth Weitzman, an NYU professor of public health and policy. “We all really struggle to find what’s right.”

But even as scores of Burger Kings and McDonald’s set up shop in the city, other chains decided coming here wasn’t worth the bother, especially since it was tough to find enough space to accommodate their restaurants’ cookie-cutter formats.

“New York, especially Manhattan, was seen as just too hard,” recalled Lisa Oak, a former executive in charge of real estate at Subway.

But in the 1990s, the sandwich chain took a leap and moved into Manhattan even though it meant squeezing into storefronts as small as 300 square feet. There are now around 140 Subways in Manhattan, plus about another 300 throughout the rest of the city.

“People who lived in the suburbs and worked in the city were waiting for us,” Oak said.

In short order the rush was on, led by upstarts challenging the established chains. In 2003 Chipotle Mexican Grill debuted in Manhattan, and the next year restaurateur Danny Meyer opened the first Shake Shack, in Madison Square Park. In recent years the old warhorses have counterattacked. The number of Popeyes in the city has grown by 60% in less than a decade, to 90. Arby’s, which opened its first New York location in 1980, in Penn Station, expanded into Brooklyn in 2010, and a spokesman said, “We believe Manhattan and the boroughs are prime for future development.” The Checkers burger chain has doubled its footprint in the city over the past five years, according to Bowles’ research, to 37 locations.

Meanwhile, some independent restaurateurs have learned that the best way to fight the big chains is to start their own.

Made to order
In 2012 Danny Hodak opened Taboonette, a fast-food offshoot of Taboon, the full-service restaurant he runs in Hell’s Kitchen. Inspiration came from listening in his car to McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc’s memoir, Grinding It Out.

“I loved systems and finding procedures that solved problems,” Hodak said.

Today Taboonette does great business from its location near Union Square because the kitchen can serve up restaurant-quality kebabs or a falafel dish with a side of rice, salad and a Yemeni hot sauce called zhug in just three minutes. It costs about $13, which is considerably more than what most fast-food outfits charge for meals. With his 900-square-foot space generating $1.8 million in revenue, Hodak plans to start looking for franchisees to spread his concept around Manhattan.

“I feel a real sense of urgency because so much competition is coming,” he said.

Indeed, many fast-food giants are trying to mimic Hodak’s success and capitalize on changing tastes by offering high-end fast food. Several of the Taco Bell restaurants coming to the city will have a cantina format, in which alcohol might be served and diners will be invited to linger. For his part, Hodak plans to take a page from the big players and install a kiosk to take customer orders in a bid to make lines move faster.

Across the city, fast-food restaurateurs are installing automated kiosks at a rapid rate to replace human order-takers, whose wages are rising. At Shake Shack’s 19th and newest location in the city, on Astor Place, customers can place orders only via kiosks, though employees, dubbed hospitality champs, are on-site to help tech-challenged diners use the devices. Automation explains why employment growth at fast-food places has been cut in half over the past year and is running two-thirds below its 2011 rate, according to state Labor Department data.

“While new limited-service restaurants continue to open in the city,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, “employment growth in the sector has increased at a much slower pace since New York started its minimum-wage experiment.”

Demand for kiosks means more work for Alejandro Swaby, director of sales at tech-services firm Cervion Systems. He charges $149 a month to rent a kiosk—”Equal to 15 sandwiches,” he said—and believes the devices have potential beyond fast food. He is talking to full-service restaurants about installing them at their bars to make it easier for diners to order a snack while waiting for a table. Swaby said he much prefers the pizza at Campania on his native Staten Island to any chain’s and sees kiosks as a way to help independent operators maximize profits as fast-food giants muscle in.

“I’m not anti-employee at all,” he said, “I’m pro–independent restaurant.”

The rising minimum wage is also opening doors for Avi Sharon, who runs a produce wholesaler in Long Island City called Adams Apple. After selling commercial time on Howard Stern’s radio show and cars in California, Sharon took over his father’s business serving mom-and-pop stores three years ago and invested $200,000 in machinery that peels onions, dices tomatoes and cuts carrots. He now supplies such fast-food restaurants as Wok to Walk and Maoz Vegetarian, a Mediterranean-themed chain.

“With the minimum wage going up, I figure there’s no way a fast-food place can sell a burger for $2.99 unless they hire someone like us,” said Sharon, who is planning to buy another $400,000 worth of equipment.

Greasy gourmand
Mike Abrusci, 29, is a native suburbanite who likes stopping by the nearest Taco Bell after gigs at comedy clubs before heading to his home in Ridgewood, Queens.

On a recent afternoon at the Union Square location, Abrusci ordered a Crunchwrap Supreme filled with guacamole and potatoes, which he described as “a quesadilla on steroids,” and a 7-Layer Burrito for later. His bill rang up to $14.

Growing up in Central Islip, Long Island, Abrusci and his buddies would hang out at Taco Bell after school. He loves the city and its variety of restaurants, but fast food fits his budget, and hitting the familiar chains has proved reassuring.

“One day I was feeling anxious about being in the city. I went to a Target, walked around and felt better,” he said. “Taco Bell does the same thing for me.”

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Filed under Chicken, Fast Casual, Fast Food, Fries, Growth, Health, Quick Service, Revenue, Sandwiches, Technology, Uncategorized

Consumers favour fast food over fine dining

Consumers favour fast food over fine dining-Irish Independent

 

Consumers favour fast food over fine dining

5 November 2014

Irish Independent

(c) 2014 Independent Newspapers Ireland Ltd

Aideen Sheehan IRELAND has become a fast food nation, with takeaways and pub grub far more popular than fine dining.

 

A new study by Bord Bia shows that fast food, takeaways and pubs dominate the €6.13bn Irish catering industry.

In fact, we spend €2.38bn or 38pc of our eating-out budget in “quick service” restaurants, and fast food is the fastest-growing sector as customers continue to watch their wallets and look for value options.

By contrast. just 11pc or €687m is spent in full-service restaurants, a Bord Bia conference in Dublin on the food service sector heard yesterday.

And though the decline of Irish pubs has been much lamented, they’re now very popular places to eat, accounting for over €1.5bn or a quarter of all our spending on food away from the home. Many pubs have begun changing their food options to attract diners, by offering more extensive menus and pairing food with wines and other drinks, said Bord Bia specialist Maureen Gahan.

Last week, 34 Irish pubs won accolades in a new Michelin guide for the quality of their food.

Meanwhile, we spend €390m on food in hotels, €283m in workplace canteens and €345m in coffee shops, Growth Coffee has remained an affordable luxury throughout the recession and it attracts a lot of customers in through the door, meaning cafes can boost revenue if they offer attractive food options, said Ms Gahan.

There are now around 10,000 outlets around the country for eating out of the home and the food-service sector has seen moderate growth in 2014 “with a positive outlook expected over the next few years,” she said.

This comes after a period of sharp decline during the recession, and is helped by 10pc growth in tourist numbers.

Bord Bia projected that spending on eating out will rise to €6.5bn by 2017.

The decision to keep the lower 9pc VAT rate in the hospitality sector will help, said Ms Gahan.

The expansion of foreign chains such as Subway, Caffe Nero and JD Wetherspoon would also give opportunities for Irish suppliers.

When it came to fast food there was a growing move towards using mobile technology and having “snackable” menu options, small portions and portable food, while at the fancier end, “food theatre” is also of growing importance as chefs show off their skills in front-ofhouse exhibition cooking. Meanwhile, “fresh is the new healthy” when it comes to international dining-out trends, said David Henkes of Technomic, a US-based market research company.

Instead of focusing on what they can’t have by opting for low-calorie, low-fat foods, consumers are instead choosing fresh, natural, nutritious foods.

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/consumers-favour-fast-food-over-fine-dining-30720136.html

Click here to read the full article in the Irish Independent

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December 11, 2014 · 1:19 PM

How the Burger King deal could change Tim Hortons

burgerking

Merger will help expansion plans but could also change coffee chain’s more free-wheeling habits

Canadians aren’t likely to lose their beloved double-doubles or the Timbits that prove so perplexing to our American neighbours. But the planned acquisition of Canada’s Tim Hortons by the U.S.-based Burger King will undoubtedly bring changes.

Tim Hortons agreed Tuesday to be bought by 3G Capital, the investment firm that owns Burger King. The Miami-based burger chain said the new combined company would be based at the current headquarters of Tim Hortons in Oakville, Ont.

The $94-a-share deal has been unanimously approved by the boards of both companies, but is still subject to a shareholder vote. Regulators in the U.S. and Canada will also likely want a say.

If completed, the deal would automatically give the merged entity more clout simply by making it the world’s third-largest quick-service restaurant. The new company would have combined global sales of $23 billion and have 18,000 locations in 98 countries. Continue reading

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Starbucks brings its Evolution Fresh juice line and new Evolution Harvest snacks to Whole Foods

Fresh Fruit

Starbucks is branching out further beyond coffee — and even beyond its cafes.

The company began offering its own snack and juice lines in Whole Foods Market stores nationwide on Tuesday, as it aims to muscle into the market for packaged foods.

Starbucks said Whole Foods will be carrying 14 of its Evolution Fresh cold-pressed juice flavors, as well as three varieties of bars from its new Evolution Harvest snack line.

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Filed under BevMo, Coffee/Cafe, Dave Henkes, Fast Casual, Press Release, Quick Service, Segment, Uncategorized

Buying into Booze

 

Buying into Booze

Does the future of fast casual lie in alcohol?

Fast-casual restaurants were once able to claim premium food, modern décor, and all-around upscale service as hallmarks of their category. But with more quick-service chains retooling in those areas to compete for post-recession consumers, fast casuals have been left to search for new ways to differentiate their brands.

For many, that search has turned up something typically better suited to fine- and casual-dining joints: booze.

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Filed under Alcohol, Beer, Casual Dining, Dave Henkes, Fast Casual, Liquor, Marketing, Press Release, Quick Service, Skinny, Spirits, Wine

Technomic Finds Drink Sales and Volume Tracking Positively at the Bar

TAB

BarTAB (Trends in Adult Beverage) reveals the trends in on-premise segments

Adult beverage sales at the bar are growing in dollars and volume despite the rocky economic environment, according to Technomic’s 2012 BarTAB (Trends in Adult Beverage) report. Sales of spirits, wine and beer in restaurants, bars and other licensed on-premise locations increased 4.9 percent to reach $93.7 billion in 2011 and projections call for continued growth in 2012. Continue reading

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Filed under Alcohol, Bar, Beer, Casual Dining, Dave Henkes, Fast Casual, Fine Dining, Liquor, lounge, Marketing, nightclub, Press Release, Quick Service, Spirits, Wine

Chipotle gets crafty with beer

Chipotle

Several Chipotle locations are adding craft beer to their menus. The chain has already been serving Mexican and Latin American imports along with more common American ales like Miller Lite; the Kansas City market is now testing margaritas.
Now, the chain is trying out craft beers. Two craft beers — made by the Latin-themed, Chicago-area microbrewery, 5 Rabbit Cerveceria — are now on the menu at 15 Chipotles across Chicago. According to the Huffington Post, the new choices include a simple golden ale called 5 Rabbit, similar to Corona, and 5 Vulture, a dark ale brewed with chiles and spices similar to Negra Modelo. If sales are positive, the chain may expand the offering to about 75 stores in the Chicago area.
The craft beer industry has experienced staggering growth for the past five years, including a 14 percent jump in sales in the first half of this year. At the National Restaurant Association Show’s International Wine Spirits and Beer Show in Chicago in May, Technomic’s David Henkes said that beer mentions have increased 65 percent on top chain menus since 2006, “driven by craft.” This is compared to the domestic light beer category, which has been flat during the last couple of years.

View the full article on Fast Casual

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Filed under Alcohol, Beer, Casual Dining, Dave Henkes, Fast Casual, Liquor, Quick Service, Uncategorized