Each year, FastCasual.com puts out their list of the Top 100 Movers and Shakers in the Fast Casual Restaurant industry. Nominated by readers, and voted on factors like innovation and growth, the Top 100 list provides a learning opportunity for restaurant owners all around.
1. Get Social. Grow Your Brand.
If there is one common denominator that is present in all of the fast casual restaurants mentioned on the Top 100 Movers and Shakers list, it’s the importance that social media plays in regards to brand building and brand awareness.
Smashburger, an innovative restaurant concept that allows burger aficionados to create their own ‘masterpieces,’ boasts a robust community of fans on Facebook that it interacts and engages with on a daily basis. Like a megaphone, Smashburger has weaved their digital presence to be part of their overarching communication with fans by providing an avenue for customers to voice their love of their food as well as forum for feedback on new products.
Lesson: Whether you are a small restaurant just starting out or a large, multi-unit corporate franchise, social media and the role it plays is only getting bigger. As a restauranteur, it is important to consider the advantages of building a presence in this space. Remember, it’s not just about telling fans you have a Facebook page or Twitter account. It’s about staying engaged and providing consistent value for your ‘fans’ and community.
2. Innovate within
A word that you often hear in the restaurant and fast casual industry is “innovation.” From innovating the items on your menu to the way you market your specials, innovation can play a big part in the long-term success of a business. “Wing Experts,” Wingstop is an excellent example of this.
Earlier this year, Wingstop combined the two things that people love, wings and sports, to create the first ever Wingstop Sports. Featuring an expanded fast-casual menu and, for the first time, grilled items, Wingstop sports was the first ‘sports’ themed location amongst their 500+ locations nationally. Conceptualized for the typical ‘sports fan,’ Wingstop innovated within their brand by building an environment that would cater and enhance the sports fans experience.
Lesson: Innovation doesn’t always mean revamping your menu or changing the way you market yourself. Like Wingstop, sometimes it can be in the experiences that we create for our customers. Another example of a brand that is innovating within is Burger King.
3. Diversify your service
Another trend that the top 100 list shares is in the diversity of services that they provide. From offering some locations with full-service express lines for the ‘on-the-go’ customer to building out custom locations for specific settings (ie: mall vs. theater), the ‘typical’ restaurant is no longer typical.
One example of this is Habit Burger. Featuring a menu that makes food lovers smile, The Habit is beyond just a burger joint. In addition to having more than 50+ units, The Habit also has it’s own, state-of-the-art food truck which caters events and parties for 100-500 people. Serving their famous Charburger, fries and a drink starting at less than $8 a person, The Habit Truck brings the full mobile food truck experience directly to you.
Lesson: When the time is right, consider offering services such as event and party catering. These can be excellent opportunities for your restaurant to expand it’s reach as well as bring in additional revenue.
4. Smart menu leads to smart business
The average consumer is no longer blind when it comes to putting food in their mouth. With a growing trend toward health consciousness, brands that make the effort to provide healthy food alternatives can find themselves with a customer base that is healthy and happy.
Some brands that have made the transition toward offering additional items on their menu that promote healthy choice options include Corner Bakery Cafe which recently launched a new calorie-conscious menu option, that boasts more than “100 Corner Combos under 600 calories,” as well as McDonald’s which over the past 2 years has revamped their menu by adding items like apple slices and salads.
Lesson: Adding healthy food choices to your current menu doesn’t necessarily mean you are increasing your costs. Remember that many of the food items that would be categorized as ‘healthy’ simply require an adjustment to the portion being served or a substitute of an ingredient. Click here to see a list of the top 10 healthiest fast food restaurants.
Have you eaten at any of the restaurants that made FastCasual.com’s Top 100 Movers and Shakers list ? If so, let us know which is your favorite and why it makes your list in the comments below.
[Click here to download the complete list of the 2012 Top 100 Movers and Shakers]
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Note that the link to download the list of movers and shakers is dead. You may want to replace it with this URL that is more current. http://www.fastcasual.com/topics/top-100/