Fast-Casual Nation: The movement that is changing how all of us eat
Holler & Dash Biscuit House is a small, counterservice chain that has made some big promises to diners: Each location of the biscuit-heavy concept will seek out local ingredients for its food and drink, whether naturally raised birds for a fried chi cken sandwich topped with goat cheese and sweet pepper jelly, or locally roasted, single-origin beans for drip coffee.
If Holler & Dash sounds like the latest chef-driven fast-casual concept, you’re right. You’re also wrong.
The budding chain is a subsidiary of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, the pub- licly traded company with more than 600 restaurants in 44 states. Cracker Barrel - known for its roads idelocations, its retail shops based onold-timeyg eneral stores and its firing of Brad’s wife - launched its first Holler & Dash last year in Homewood, Alabama, and has since opened four more locations, includ ing one in Atlanta. The fast-casual aggressively promotes its two chefs, whose résumés include far more refined - and pricey - restaurants.
Should you be surprised that Cracker arrel has entered the fast-casual mar- ket? Not really. Even though the chain is faring better than its underperforming peers in the casual-dining sector, Cracker Barrel has its reasons for muscling into the territory dominated by Panera Bread, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and Chipotle Mexican Grill. For starters, Cracker Barrel sees Holler & Dash as its way to crack the urban market without sacri- ficing its countrified image.
Make no mistake: Fast- casuals are influencing and attracting chefs, restaura- teurs and executives across
Bnational. By contrast, sales in the fast-food industry rose annually in the 3 to 4 percent range, while full-service restaurants saw growth rates between 1.5 and 2 percent.
Chefs and restaurateurs with fine-dining pedigrees have entered the fast-casual trade to try to give the peo- ple what they want. In Wash- ington, José Andrés developed the vegetable-forward concept Beefsteak. In New Chipotle, Panera, Shake York, David Chang created Shack and the like didn’t creFuku, a s mall collection of ate the demand for affordfast-casual shops devoted able, freshly prepared and to chicken. In Chicago, Rick high-quality meals delivered Bayless opened a number at breakneck speed. of counter-service spots,
“Dual-income families, including Tortas Frontera people having less time, peo- and Frontera Fresco. Then ple eating away from home there’s restaurateur Danny more than ever” all inspired Meyer, who may now be as the movement, says Brett famous for his Shake Shack Schulman, chie f executive empire as for Gramercy Tavofficer of Cava, the fast-casual ern or any of his other fine- based in Washington. Peodining establishments. ple were “also demanding Many of these chefs enter higher quality as well as betthe fast-casual business hop- ter nutrition profiles.” ing to replicate their con
But these pioneers have cept, perhaps building the nurtured the trend to the next great counter-service point where sales at fastempire. Fast-casual veterans casual restaurants are grow- have their doubtsabout that. ing far faster than those at The largest and most sucfast-food or full-service rescessful fast-casual chains, taurants. From 2011 to 2016, Strasser says, are processfast-casual restaurants saw driven. They know how to their sales grow between manage complex - and mas10 and 11 percent annually, sive - tasks without sacrificaccording to market research ing the quality of their food provider Euromonitor Inter- or service. the hospitality indust ry.Fast- food companies are improv- ing their ingredie ntstostay competitive, and chefs are abandoning or supplementing their full-service temples for a chance to hit it big in the fastest-growing segment of American dining.
America, it appea rs,isno longer a Fast Food Nation. It’s a Fast-Casual Nation.
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I haven’t made it in a while, so I’m not sure what all the ingredients are or the a mountof butter to use.
Please reprint this wonderful recipe so
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— Karen P., Kenner, La.
Holler & Dash is trying to gain traction without displaying signage that connects it with its parent restaurant, Cracker Barrel.