Did you notice that QSR magazine upped their 9 fast-food trends for 2016 to 12 trends for 2017? They kept the descriptions more succinct and business-focused rather than about the food itself. I have a theory for why this is… because today’s customers are all over the place! Wouldn’t the foodservice industry be much simpler if everyone just wanted a salad for lunch and a craft pizza by night? (Answer: Yes it would be, but it would also be completely boring!)
We’re living in an age of fast-food paradoxes. Let’s face it: What tastes good isn’t always good for you. What’s good for you can’t always be delivered quickly and with real ingredients.
Dashboard dining is not exactly synonymous with mindful eating…. until now. Finally! Someone brave enough to try bridging all these gaps!
Meet the Brittsans, a couple who dared to open Nic’S Organic Fast Food: the nation’s first certified-organic fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru (two trends in one description)! Like many good food ideas, it all started with a pregnant woman who craved a burger. The Brittsans, who met while enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu, know fine dining, but they’re just like the rest of us—sometimes you have a hankering. It’s why their concept features a menu of burgers, fried and grilled chicken, AND salads. Breakfast (yet another trend) will also be served and will feature freshly squeezed juices and organic coffee.
“The organic lifestyle doesn’t mean you’re eating any healthier in terms of the food,” CEO Benjamin Brittsan told Chicago Eater. “What you’re benefitting from is from what’s not in the food.” (Do you feel the sun’s warmth? I believe the clouds just parted.)
This makes so much sense for describing what appeals to today’s consumers who actually don’t know what they want on any given day—they want it all and NOW! At Nic’s, they can order a healthy or indulgent meal without feeling bad about it either way. And an indulgent meal is less guilt-inducing when we know the ingredients are free of hormones and chemicals, and that the meat was sourced from a farm that uses ethical practices.
Brittsan is confident in his concept and bold enough to forecast opening 50 locations in the next three years. In fact, he wants to take his concept west from Chicagoland to California, right to the doorstep of competitors like The Organic Coup, which is opening its eighth location after launching in late 2015. The Organic Coup was billed as the country’s first USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant. That’s a distinction from Nic’s, which is certified organic by Quality Assurance International, but it’s an organic certification nevertheless.
New concepts like Nic’s and The Organic Coup represent an exciting opportunity for foodpreneurs with big dreams. It also presents an urgency for major fast-food industry players with menus that can’t be revolutionized to this extent. What is a red-headed gal, a stately colonel, and the Golden Arches to do?
The answer is to double-down on operational efficiency. The last listed trend in QSR’s article is “fast casual embraces value.” I think they saved the most important trend for last! As one industry expert put it, quick-service in infringing on fast-casual’s space, so fast-casual will have to compete on value. This is yet another paradox—organic, fresh ingredients usually carry a premium that’s passed onto the customer. Nic’s menu isn’t available, but we know The Organic Coup Signature Sandwich is $10. Fast-food will offer you a premium, non-organic version at half the price or less.
So will these newer fast-food restaurants flourish or have the growing pains of expanding businesses finding their way?
Will traditional fast-food players continue to tweak their menus or capitalize by offering more immediately recognized value?
We’re staying tuned to see how this one plays out!