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50 Great Ideas

50 Great Ideas

11. Digital drive-thrus

As consumers’ call for convenience continues, operators are finding ways to meet those demands. Chipotle is experimenting with Chipotlanes, or drive-thrus for mobile orders, while tech-forward Cava is similarly testing a drive-thru lane for orders placed online or via the chain’s app and scheduled for a select pickup time. Cava opened its first drive-thru in April and is expanding the test.

50 Great Ideas

43. Culture cards

Emily Hanlin, executive director of food and nutrition services at Cobb County School District in Kennesaw, Ga., sends handwritten birthday cards to team members, which she says makes staff feel connected to the operation.

Dessert menus at Silo in Nashville and Cache Cache in Aspen, Colo., offer treats for more than just the guests. Silo’s menu lists a “Buy the cooks a round of beer” option for $20, and Cache Cache similarly suggests that guests can buy a six-pack for the kitchen.

The Purple Pig in Chicago donated a portion of mocktail sales in January and May to NoStigmas, a nonprofit support network for people affected by mental illness and suicide—issues that are prevalent in the restaurant industry.

Cracker Barrel is catering to groups that don’t need a full catering order but have a group too large for individual orders. The chain introduced its picnic box offering, with large-format sides and 12 pieces of fried chicken, as an alternate off-premise option for smaller groups.

Hannah’s Bretzel makes sure its customers know its better-for-you stance, even after they’ve ordered. The fast casual provides health-forward information on its e-receipts for digital orders. In a “Did You Know” section, it highlights that “High intake of whole grains has been associated with help in weight management, reduced risk of heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes,” and continues with more information on grains.

In a move that aims to set new standards for restaurants, fast casual Sweetgreen has expanded its perks for employees to include five months of paid leave for new parents. The leave extends beyond new mothers to fathers, adoptive parents, foster parents and “others with new additions to their families,” the chain said. The leave is available to all employees who have been on the payroll for at least six months.

During finals season, Panera Bread extended its hours at units near campuses, boosting off-peak traffic. The chain pushed a Brain Food Menu of protein-rich wraps and salads while offering free baked items and coffee.

Big Beach Brewing Co. in Gulf Shores, Ala., has a Mind Your P’s & Q’s wall. Customers can prebuy beer for a friend, and a small card relaying that message goes on the wall. When the friend arrives, they can redeem the drink.

In a move to support its sustainability efforts, fast casual Just Salad launched a smaller version of its signature reusable bowls for kids. For $1, parents can purchase the bowl and receive a free topping with each use.

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