Cover Story: Fresh Competition
CEO Gary Beisler is trying to expand 150-unit Qdoba Mexican Grill into a national brand by playing up its food quality and speed of service. To compete with fast-casual rivals and traditional fast feeders, Qdoba is moving the menu away just burritos to one filled with "nouveau Mexican" options with bolder flavor profiles. With Jack in the Box's backing, Beisler thinks the chain can grow to at least 800 and possibly 1,000 units over the next several years.
By David Farkas
Storyboard: Summer Job
We all may scream for ice cream, but Marble Slab Creamery would like to hear those cries a little more loudly. The Houston-based chain launched a $1 million TV ad campaign illustrating its points of difference including the frozen marble slab on which ice cream is mixed and the fresh ingredients used in its waffle cones, mix-ins and toppings. Marble Slab plans to add 120 units this year and reach a total of 500 stores by the end of 2005.
By Margaret Littman
Restauratour: Lake Effect
The look of the new Mitchell's Fishmarket in Glenview, Ill., evokes the inland-water region of the Great Lakes. The seafaring cues include vintage models of the Chris Craft boats, fresh white walls and an abundance of wood detailing. The design retains the original restaurants' fresh-fish elements like a raw bar and lobster tank. At a cost of $2.4 million, owner Cameron Mitchell expects a return on investment of 30 percent to 40 percent.
By Lisa Bertagnoli
Toque Of The Town: Daily Double
Senior Product Development Manager and Chef Angela Vega has overhauled Shoney's menu as part of the Nashville, Tenn.-based chain's turnaround efforts. She has trimmed the a la carte sections by updating comfort foods and creating new entree salads. Vega has also invigorated the buffets with more home-style entrees and specialty nights. The buffets now garner 60 percent of food sales, new a la carte items are selling in the top five and above in their categories, and comps have been up 3 percent at company units for the last six months.
By Monica Rogers
Liquid Measure: Go with the Flow
O'Charley's is betting that guests not only eat with their eyes but drink with their eyes as well. The 215-unit chain invested in a full-color, stand-alone drink menu and photo-heavy promotional materials to support its beverage program. After several years of declining, total beverage sales rose 5 percent in June and accounted for 9 percent of average unit sales last year. O'Charley's expects this new emphasis to push beverage sales into the double digits this year.
By Donna Hood Crecca
Growth Strategy: Packing Heat
Firehouse Subs is burning through the Southeast. With 148 units in nine states, the fast-casual chain is getting closer to its goal of becoming one of the top five sub chains by 2008. The bulk of Firehouse Subs' growth is dependent on its area-representative program, hoping to reel in franchisees with low start-up costs, high volumes and classic hot sandwiches.
By Maya Norris
Human Assets: Setting the Course
In 2002, at the behest of its newly formed Diversity Council, Bertucci's Brick Oven Ristorante embarked on a drive to make its work force more closely reflect its customer base. Identifying language skills as a primary obstacle to advancement, the company enabled select hourly and management employees to take English courses on company time. A mere 18 months later, President and COO Rick Barbrick says the strategy has helped reduce turnover.
By Donna Hood Crecca
The Bernstein Perspective: Living on the Edge
Editorial: Diversity Gains