Fast Casual Restaurant Summit: Brain Exchange

Fast Casual Restaurant Summit: Brain Exchange

Food & Drink

Fast Casual Restaurant Summit: Brain Exchange


What do you get when you put more than 100 top fast casual executives in a room together? Ideas, ideas, ideas. Tuesday’s mid-morning meeting of the Fast Casual Executive Summit was one of several hands-on brainstorming sessions. Executives broke into groups to provide at least one key take-away and one best practice within seven areas of discussion.

Brand Design

Take Away: Get back to basics and create emotional connections.

Best Practice: Be true to your brand. You have to stand out today and be different. Now is the time to focus on what you do best so consumers and patrons tell others.


Take Away: Use web/social technology to reach your guests, but only if you’re committed to ongoing care and feeding of that social medium.

Best Practice: Brevity and relevance of message. Make people want to stay in touch with your brand.


Take Away: Develop prototypes and test them, such as with a limited time offer (LTO)

Best Practice: Test prototypes – such as with an LTO – make sure they fit properly into operations, food safety and supply chain.

Start Up

Take Away: Have a well differentiated product and understand the gap in the market you fill. Then stay true to that.

Best Practice: Systems of measurement and research to determine market opportunity and how you fit in. Good consistent research to define your customer and locations.

Team Dynamics

Take Away: A quasi-gift in this recession is the soft labor market. Take this opportunity to build your rock stars, gather your tribe and build for future success.

Best Practice: Figure out how to alleviate stress for employees; keep them engaged, reward those who are doing more with less. Without funds for raises or bonuses, how can you do that? Consider the ‘new age’ benefits: time off, allowing employees to volunteer for community DURING office hours, interest free employee loans, providing outside financial advice, implementing wellness programs—essentially anything to relieve stress and make your employees’ lives better.

Online Ordering/Catering Sales

Take Away: Define characteristics of an online order: consumer based/retail type ordering (no different than ordering at counter); group ordering, and catering (essentially platter based).

Best Practice: Drive sales – put big efforts into canvassing – internal and external; incentivize internally – train your counter people to know what a catering prospect looks like when they come into a store – get their business cards and pay for each collected. Get outside and go to work for your customers – work the line.


Take Away: Find that passion champion – the ones who always start a project with value and purpose.

Best Practice: Set clear expectations, with solid, measurable objectives, then evaluate and measure performance

Direct Mail/Frequency Programs

Take Away: We need a great automated frequency program – no cards with holes in them, don’t want 12 plastic cards – patrons want a single source card. Frequency programs are a must in this economy.

Best Practice: Goal is to be in the 1-2 cards that a guest carries – if they won’t carry 12 – how do you make sure you’re a top choice? Design, offer and refresh the programs regularly.

Additional Stories from the Summit:

Day One

Keynote Address from Au Bon Pain CEO: Using Consumer Insights

Brand Building

Sustainability Panel Discussion

Gettin’ Casual at the Fast Casual Summit


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