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