The Cheesecake Factory branched out from its varied-menu roots with its recent investment in Fox Restaurant Concepts’ Flower Child fast-casual chain. While Cheescake hasn’t revealed how much of a stake it bought in the health-forward concept from Arizona restaurateur Sam Fox, it does have the option to purchase the brand if it proves to be a good fit.
So what is it about the now-five-unit Flower Child (with two more restaurants opening soon) that caught the national brand’s attention? Fox told Restaurant Business around the launch of the first unit in Phoenix in 2014 that it’s “one of the best things we’ve ever done.” Here’s a closer look at the concept.
'Better fast casual'
Fox initially described Flower Child as "better fast casual," telling Restaurant Business it’s the full package: “higher quality food, finishes and hospitality.” Diners order at a counter and get their own drinks, but food is delivered and plates are cleared for them, with checks averaging around $17.
Part of delivering hospitality, for Fox, is an emphasis on transparency, so the restaurants feature an open kitchen that “speaks to the food we’re doing. [It displays] our sustainable, organic, high-quality product that we’re proud of,” he said.
That includes foods designated as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, as well as health-forward beverages. The drinks program includes kombucha on tap as well as self-serve bubblers stocked with teas and lemonades.
Focus on takeout…and not just for one
In its first few months, 25% of the food sold at Flower Child was purchased for takeaway, according to Fox. The off-premise menu goes beyond the in-house offerings of salads, bowls, wraps and “healthy kids” options, though. Taking on grocery stores with prepared meals for groups, Flower Child sells grab-and-go Family Dinners as well as Friends and Neighbors meals, which offer the choice of a protein and a number of large sides to be shared.
In part to relate to its millennial customers, Flower Child employs a largely millennial staff base. Fox said he knew he needed to hire a young staff for the youthful energy he envisioned for the hippie-style concept with a “food revolution” in mind.
Instead of focusing on experience, his hiring process focuses on finding people who are inherently friendly. At the first unit, 80% of front-of-house staffers had never worked in a restaurant, and Fox knew going in that this hiring style would require more training, but was willing to invest time in positive people.
To further fuel the on-trend, youthful energy of its staff, there isn’t a set uniform. Instead, servers are given a look book and direction, pointing them to cute blouses and denim tops from inexpensive retail shops while still allowing some freedom.
Fox hopes, too, that the flexibility in uniform helps staff feel comfortable and happy, which carries through to how they treat guests.
Revolution in design
To convey the theme of a food revolution, Flower Child features phrases painted on the floors and windows such as “Make lunch not war.” The art on the walls also gives a nod to the bygone era of the rebel flower child.