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Concept to Scout: Banh Shop

Yum! Brands is at it again, rolling out another fast-casual test concept in the Dallas area. Instead of fried chicken (the subject of a previous test, SuperChix in Arlington, Texas), it’s floating Southeast Asian “street” sandwiches, known as banh mi.

Stepping inside, the Asian-French influence is clear. From the street scene pictured on the one-page menu to the urban Saigon architectural style, Vietnamese culture is reflected throughout. This East-meets-West vibe is what Yum’s emerging brands division vice president Chris Poirier wanted to convey with Banh Shop. “Vietnamese cuisine is very trendy right now, and sandwiches have always been a great category. Banh mi are the right balance between authenticity and accessibility,” says Poirier.

It’s that authenticity that he hopes will hit a home run with consumers, especially millennials teeming the nearby Southern Methodist University campus. “Millennials are looking for food that is very authentic … true food, true ingredients, everything done with authenticity,” he says. Plus, “they like the price point and the fact they can get really good food and be back out the door in 20 minutes.” Nothing on the menu is more than $10.

Even with crowds of eager college students, speed is possible due to Chipotle-like service. Guests order and make their way down a counter to watch as food is prepared. Diners can choose from one of eight banh mi, with cilantro, Thai basil, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber and aioli, plus a protein. There’s also fried rice, salads, stir-fry noodle bowls and soup.

A public-relations blunder caused a blip in the otherwise smooth Sept. 15 opening. Members of the local Vietnamese community launched an online petition less than a week after Banh Shop opened, protesting the restaurant’s logo. Petitioners complained its red star offended South Vietnamese refugees as a symbol of communism. Yum! immediately apologized, took down the sign and asked the president of the Vietnamese-American Community of Greater Dallas to review its new logo proposals. “We made an unintended mistake,” says Poirier. “When you make a mistake, you apologize and fix it.”

Next up, a second unit is set to open mid-October in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

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