Indies may get most of the credit for being innovative, but chain restaurants are keeping pace as hotbeds of inspiration.
Recycling an idea: Scraps on the menu
WastED, a pop-up by New York chef Dan Barber devoted to upcycling food scraps, has inspired dishes on the menus of other restaurants. The latest: a wastED veggie burger at Shake Shack made with vegetable pulp reclaimed from a cold-pressed juice operation. It’s topped with lettuce, melted cheese trimmings, bruised-beet ketchup and honey-mustard mayo and served on a bun made from day-old bread. A percentage of the burger’s sales was donated to City Harvest.
New ways to use trays
Instead of having customers repeat their order as they progress down the build-your-own line at chef Jose Andres’ fast casual, Beefsteak (with two locations in Washington, D.C.), staffers use a marker to write the guest’s name and order on the food tray upfront. If the line backs up and staff lose track of who has what meal, the name is on the tray, adding a special touch to service.
Mellow Mushroom tailors each of its restaurants to the local market through menu, decor and other elements. In sync with that mission, the 170-unit casual-dining chain invited employees to help curate its new Homegrown Picks Menu. Servers, bartenders and cooks submitted personal recipes for pizzas, appetizers and cocktails using all in-house ingredients. Nine were chosen for the chain’s systemwide menu, which accounted for $1 million in sales during its run, says a spokesperson.
Pizza via text
Domino’s AnyWare campaign plays into the hands of its mobile-loving millennial consumers by allowing ordering from practically any device. The chain expanded its pizza-emoji ordering beyond Twitter to mobile; diners with their numbers stored in Pizza Profiles can place a preprogrammed “Easy Order” with a single text—giving the chain customer data, too.
Set house rules for social posts
When it comes to managing negative user-generated posts, Michael McCathren, manager of interactive digital marketing at Chick-fil-A, said at the September FSTEC conference that adding a “House Rules” tab to the brand’s Facebook page has been a game changer. It explains that the page was created for fans to exchange information about promotions, meals and experiences and lists a number of reasons Chick-fil-A may elect to delete a post, such as any that “include profanity, hate speech or attack another member of our community.”
A bowl of pie
Taking a cue from taco salads in edible bowls popularized by Mexican chains, Dallas-based Pie Five shapes its scratch-made pizza dough into an individual bowl, bakes it and fills it with one of four salads—chicken Caesar, Greek, classic Italian or spinach. The move aims to differentiate Pie Five in the build-your-own pizza segment and curbs veto votes from salad-craving guests.