What we’re seeing:
You’ve heard of fast casual, but we’re calling this new segment “chef casual”: chefs breaking from fine dining to open their own fast-casual concepts. Are they doing it because that’s where the demand is or so they can showcase their craft to a greater number of people? We suspect a little bit of both.
What they’re saying:
Ben Ford: I have never liked the disparity between taking care of my customer’s wellbeing and providing what they can afford to eat on a regular basis. You need to be clever to engineer a menu that uses responsible ingredients in a creative manner.
In the kitchen:
Jaime Martin Del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu of La Casita Mexicana in Bell, CA, are opening their fast-casual debut, Flautas, which will be a gourmet yet affordable dining option offering rolled tacos.
• Despite sharing few details, Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup has announced it will roll out a fast-casual concept in early 2015.
• Loco’l is Roy Choi’s new healthful fast food project, where diners can expect a burger cut with grains and tofu and a special sauce. ”Imagine your favorite restaurant run by chefs and everything is around $2,” Choi says. “We’re using our knowledge as chefs to try to re-create a really great fast food burger, because that’s what people are addicted to and accustomed to.”
• After successfully opening full-service restaurant Cava Mezze in Washington, DC, with a modern-American spin on Greek cuisine, Ike Grigoropoulos, Ted Xenohristos, and Dimitri Moshovitis launched a fast-casual spinoff, Cava Grill. Moshovitis says it was his way to tailor the product to an audience with a limited schedule or budget.