Fast-Ca­sual Na­tion: The move­ment that is chang­ing how all of us eat

The Palm Beach Post - - FOOD BUZZ - By Tim Car­man

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.

Dear Heloise:

You had a recipe for a no-mix cherry-pineap­ple nut cake t hat­my­hus­band was wild about.

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

I can make it for my won­der­ful guy.

— Karen P., Ken­ner, La.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF HOLLER & DASH

Holler & Dash is try­ing to gain trac­tion with­out dis­play­ing sig­nage that con­nects it with its par­ent res­tau­rant, Cracker Bar­rel.

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