FAST & FRESH BURGEONING CHAINS OFFER CHOICES WITH QUALITY, SPEED.Byline: Barbara Correa Staff Writer
Rising demand for fresh, quick alternatives to traditional fast food has put smaller restaurant chains The following is a list of restaurant chains.
See also: Fast-food restaurant, Casual dining, List of reference tables. International
The smaller chain niche, known in the restaurant industry as ``quick casual,'' lies somewhere between a sit-down family eatery and a fast-food joint. These restaurants typically have a self-service format, $6-$9 entree averages and more sophisticated decor and food ingredients than fast food.
``It is a burgeoning segment of the restaurant market,'' John Dunlap John Dunlap (1747 – November 27, 1812) was the printer of the first copies of the Declaration of Independence. He was born in Strabane, Northern Ireland in 1747, and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 27, 1812. , president of the California Restaurant Association, said Tuesday. ``You're going to see it develop and grow and expand from Southern California to the rest of the nation and the world.''
The quick casual sector, dominated by Mexican chains that got their start right here in Southern California, has been around for a decade or so. But serious growth kicked off in recent years, just as traditional fast-food fixtures like McDonald's and Burger King began to suffer from overexpansion and consumers' growing awareness of food fat content.
As the lunch crowd started defecting from fast food to quick casual, the move attracted the attention of some of those same fast-food giants, which wasted no time in gobbling them up in a flurry of acquisitions in the past two years.
The consolidation in turn has infused the quick casuals with the deep pockets they need to launch serious expansion.
In 1998, McDonald's bought a minority stake in Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) is a Denver, Colorado-based chain of Fresh Mex restaurants specializing in San Francisco burritos and tacos. Founded by Steve Ells in 1993, the restaurant is known for its chunky guacamole and large burritos. , eventually increasing ownership to 90 percent. McDonald's has pledged to expand at a rate of a unit a week. The chain has grown from 15 to 22 restaurants in Southern California in the past 18 months and is about to open three new units in Ventura, Riverside and Oceanside.
Carlson Restaurants, operator of T.G.I. Friday's T.G.I. Friday's (often referred to as just "Fridays") is a popular American restaurant chain focusing on casual dining, with over 500 restaurants across the United States, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Australia and the UK, as well as many other countries around the world. , bought Pick Up Stix in 2001, expanding the Orange County-based restaurant chain into Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. County. Since the acquisition, the brand has opened seven outlets in the L.A. area and doubled its total number of stores to 86, most of which are located in Southern California. More growth is on the way.
``We're looking at West Covina West Covina, city (1990 pop. 96,086), Los Angeles co., S Calif., in the San Gabriel valley; settled 1905, inc. 1923. Before World War II, West Covina was a small rural community where walnuts, wheat, and livestock were raised. , Corona, the Westside of L.A., the San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley
Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills. and Simi Valley Simi Valley (sē`mē, sĭm`ē), city (1990 pop. 100,217), Ventura co., SW Calif. in an oil, fruit, and farm region; laid out 1887, inc. 1969. ,'' said Tim Pulido, president and chief executive of Pick Up Stix.
``We're providing a lot more than fuel, which is what I'd call fast food. (Pick Up Stix) is custom-made to order food in a nice environment and also relatively fast.''
Last summer, Wendy's International Wendy's International, Inc. NYSE: WEN is the parent company of Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers. It also owns 70 percent of Cafe Express and 25 percent (fully diluted) of Pasta Pomodoro. The Tim Hortons chain was spun off by Wendy's into a separate company in September 2006. , the No. 3 burger chain, bought Baja Fresh Mexican Grill, which has since added 12 new restaurants to its 65 in Southern California.
``We're on a rapid growth campaign,'' said Ron Biskin, senior vice president of development at Thousand Oaks-based Fresh Enterprises Inc., the Wendy's unit that operates Baja Fresh.
Also last year, Carl's Jr. operator CKE CKE Clock Enable (memory signal)
CKE Carl Karcher Enterprises, Inc. (restaurant chain)
CKE Certified Kitchen Design Educator
CKE Catia Knowledge Engineering
CKE Content and Knowledge Engineering Restaurants Inc. acquired Santa Barbara Restaurant Group Santa Barbara Restaurant Group was the parent company of Green Burrito and La Salsa fast-food restaurant chains. CKE Restaurants acquired Santa Barbara Restaurant Group in 2001. and its La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill chain, which has about 50 restaurants in Southern California. The chain won't say how many outlets it plans to open, but said it will be adding multiple units this year in Los Angeles County.
Jack In the Box bought Mexican chain Qdoba, which has just one California One California is a skyscraper in San Francisco, California. The building rises 438 feet (134 meters) in the northern region of San Francisco’s Financial District. It contains 32 floors, and was completed in 1969. restaurant in El Segundo, last January.
Rubio's, one of the only independents left among quick casual Mexican food chains, wants to grow its 30-odd stores in the Los Angeles area. But it has run up against the lack of real estate and has put its 3-year-old franchising experiment on hold while it switched its brand from Rubio's Baja Grill to Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, formerly known as Rubio’s Baja Grill, also simply known as Rubio’s, is a fast casual Fresh Mex restaurant chain specializing in Mexican food, with an emphasis on fish tacos. last year.
Still, said founder Ralph Rubio, the company plans to open a new restaurant in Simi Valley and is working on deals in Los Angeles proper.
So far, analysts say, there are no concerns about the quick casual sector growing too rapidly, one problem plaguing the traditional fast-food industry.
That sector has suffered from discounting wars and the cannibalism cannibalism (kăn`ĭbəlĭzəm) [Span. caníbal, referring to the Carib], eating of human flesh by other humans. that occurs when one fast-food outlet of the same brand opens in close proximity to another and begins to encroach encroach v. to build a structure which is in whole or in part across the property line of another's real property. This may occur due to incorrect surveys, guesses or miscalculations by builders and/or owners when erecting a building. on its customer base.
For quick casual, there's plenty of room to grow, as chains in the category typically run up to several hundred stores, compared with thousands for chains like Taco Bell, which had 6,165 units in the United States as of last year, down from 6,444 in 2001.
For its part, Orange County-based Del Taco announced on Tuesday a franchise development agreement for three new restaurants in the San Fernando Valley area.
``Anyone in quick casual is in a good position right now because they offer the speed but with higher-quality product,'' said Bob Sandelman, who runs a restaurant research firm in Villa Park.
While the segment has attracted the fast-food lunch crowd looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. higher-quality fare, it has also lured families from sit-down restaurants, which require more of a time commitment and add a tip to the bill.
``People who are time-famined are attracted to our concept,'' said Biskin of the Wendy's unit that operates Baja Fresh.
``Particularly here in Southern California, where there are two income earners in the house, they are overscheduled with activities. Anything people can do to make their lives easier and more efficient, they're going to do that,'' said Sandelman.
Still, it remains to be seen whether customers will continue to be willing to pay more than for fast food to get nice decor and a little better quality, said Ron Paul, president of food research firm Technomic, which started tracking quick casual as its own category this year. ``Will consumers be willing to pony up and pay more money?'' he said, particularly if economic recovery continues to stall.
So far, however, the sector looks bullish.
``It's still a reasonable buy, and I think consumers have just become better educated and they perceive that this food is better and fresher,'' he said.
McDonald's, Burger King and Jack in the Box have all launched salad lines in the past year to satisfy customers seeking fresh, healthier options.
The effort has proved successful so far, said Randall Hiatt, a consultant to the hospitality industry based in Costa Mesa. But it can't compete with high-end atmosphere and made-to-order food.
``Even though salads are working for the fast-food people,'' he said, ``they're still not going to attract as wide an audience as these quick casual segments.''
Barbara Correa, (818) 713-3634
FAST & FRESH
Quick casual restaurants are perceived as being fresher, but their offerings aren't always lower in fat than fast food
HOW THEY COMPARE
Nutritional value: 33 grams fat; 580 calories
Caesar Grilled Chicken Salad
Nutritional value: 14 grams fat; 280 calories
Chicken Grande Burrito
Nutritional value: 34 grams fat; 840 calories
Pick Up Stix
Chicken With Vegetables
Nutritional value: 8 grams fat; 445 calories, for 1/2 box portion
4 photos, box
(1 -- color) McDonald's Big Mac
(2 -- color) McDonald's Caesar Grilled Chicken Salad
(3 -- color) La Salsa Chicken Grande Burrito
(4 -- color) Pick Up Stix Chicken with Vegetables
FAST & FRESH (see text)