A hot new concept typically fosters considerable talk among restaurateurs scouting for the next big thing—i.e., virtually anyone in the business. But internet communications promise to change the dynamic, just as social media and other forms of digital connection have altered the speed and tone of the consumer grapevine. You no longer need to keep an ear to the ground at industry events; a mouse in hand seems to work much better.
So what concepts are getting the hot word of mouse today?
Here are a few that we’ve seen snagging some attention online: PDQ, PizzaRev, Red Door, Maison Kayser. Here are a few points about each.
PDQ: One of a growing number of acronym-named concepts (see our story on LYFE Kichen), this one says its birth certificate actually reads People Dedicated to Quality. It’s another fast-casual upstart that’s trying to replicate within its sector what Chipotle did in Tex-Mex. PDQ’s specialty is the chicken tender, offered with dipping sauces for the purist, or as a sandwich or salad topping. Hand-cut fries and milkshakes are also pillars of the menu, and there are a few off-beat signatures, like blueberry coleslaw.
Although PDQ has been around for some 19 months, it’s been snagging Kim Kardashian-league attention in recent weeks because of the company it’s lately been keeping. The oft-praying Tim Tebow is the latest boldfaced name to be connected with the chain, which could field a helluva touch football team. Former QB Vinny Testaverde is also reported to be a backer. Tampa Bay star Derrick Brooks is also among the celebs who are putting up money.
The roster also includes several All-Stars from the chain restaurant world, including Outback co-founders Bob Basham and Tim Gannon. Like the early Outback, PDQ is growing through joint ventures rather than franchising.
PizzaRev: With a 4.5-star rating on Yelp, PizzaRev has been a social media darling for some time. It’s been getting more play on the industry grapevine as of late because Buffalo Wild Wings has bought a minority stake in the three-unit concept to kick off what CEO Sally Smith has described as a concerted diversification strategy.
The concept is obviously inspired by Chipotle. Customers move down a line, picking what type of pizza crust they’d like, what toppings, how much, etc. Then the customized pie is popped into a wood-burning oven for what the company says should be about two minutes.
Red Door Grill: The prototype won’t even open for at least a few days, but the brand is already snagging online attention because of the people involved in its launch. It’s the latest example of high-end chefs—in this case, James Beard award-winner Debbie Gold—adapting their culinary skills to a mainstream, clone-able concept. Her allies in the launch are two former franchisees of KFC and Five Guys.
Details about the concept are sketchy, which proves that there’s no correlation between the amount and depth of internet buzz.
Maison Kayser: A culinary artisan is the figure behind this European import, too, which made its beachhead on the Upper East Side of New York City. The house of self-proclaimed “artisan boulanger” Eric Kayser features authentic bistro-style fare, including tartines and pates. It’s a sister operation of a Parisian namesake. Think Pan Quotidian, but more upscale.