As the demand for fresh, made-to-order menus expands to all types of limited-service concepts, operators are looking to separate themselves from the fray by bringing more convenience to the table. Borrowing a page from quick-service restaurants, health-minded concepts are touting other selling points beyond their food’s quality; namely, price and convenience—and a drive-thru.
Dallas, 2 units
While customers might consider Start healthy fast food, founder Erin McKool says she sees it more akin to “slow food fast.” Still, there’s no denying that the QSR-plus concept’s largely organic positioning—and fryer-free kitchen—props up a tangible health halo.
Start, which gets more than half of its business in the drive-thru, challenges the idea of what can be provided in a quick-service type of format, McKool says. Even its design—centered around wood, angles and natural light—is a departure from the hallmarks of traditional QSRs while still giving a nod to them, courtesy of retro neon signage.
McKool estimates that customers are willing to wait as long as six minutes for a meal they want to be made a certain way, in exchange for the convenience of not having to get out of their cars. To avoid topping that turnaround time, Start preps salads and other items in advance, adding meat to order.
The house burger—made with grass-fed, free-range beef—is the top seller at the two-unit concept, where average checks run about $12. Stuffed sweet potatoes and breakfast sandwiches are also signature options, rounded out by wraps and salads.
Photograph by Kevin Marple
Salad and Go
Arizona, 6 units
Looking to compete with standard fast food on more than just convenience, Salad and Go touts the price point of the health-focused offerings it slings through its drive-thru window—all of which cost less than $6. At the concept, which has no dining room, customers can choose from 10 options that can be prepared as either a salad or a wrap; mirroring the trends at QSRs like McDonald’s, it also offers an all-day breakfast menu.
Miami, 1 unit
This wholly organic quick-service spot from onetime NBA star Ray Allen and his wife leans heavily on family-friendliness inside and out, with play areas for kids, an iPad bar outfitted with fitness and health-related games, and a drive-thru. Meals featuring such proteins as falafel, wild-caught salmon and grass-fed brisket can be ordered in individual portions ($14 to $18) or for families of four ($42 to $54).
Photograph by April Belle Photos