Emerging Brands

5 emerging concepts that made waves in 2019

Established operators launched or expanded their young concepts in 2019. Here’s a look back at the newborn restaurants that had the industry buzzing.
Photograph courtesy of Heidi's Bridge
  1. Porch Swing

In February, Wingstop and Pizza Patron founder Antonio Swad opened a polished-casual concept. Southern-focused Porch Swing, located outside Dallas, features slow-cooked meats, an in-house pie shop and a large outdoor patio with, of course, porch swings and a stage for live music.

  1. Chicken Guy

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri and Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl joined forces early in 2019 to launch a second unit of their fast-casual chicken tenders concept Chicken Guy. There are now four locations, including two stadium units. Chicken Guy is known for its fried chicken strips and nearly two dozen dipping sauces. The pair’s first Chicken Guy opened in the Disney Springs multiuse complex in Orlando, Fla., where Earl is based.

  1. VooDoo Daddy’s Steam Kitchen

Ron Lynch, former president of Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, debuted a Cajun fast-casual concept in Tempe, Ariz., in May. VooDoo Daddy’s Steam Kitchen specializes in Louisiana favorites such as jambalaya, gumbo, po’boys, and red beans and rice. Customers order at the counter and food is served from large steam kettles.

  1. Dave’s Hot Chicken

Bill Phelps, co-founder of Wetzel’s Pretzels and one of Blaze Pizza’s first investors, became the CEO of Dave’s Hot Chicken in September. The two-unit fast-casual hot chicken chain, which lists three more locations as “coming soon” on its website, started as a pop-up in a parking lot. The original investment group behind Blaze Pizza and Wetzel’s is also investing in Dave’s.

  1. Lekka Burger

Plant-based burgers were the “it” food of 2019, but products from big companies got most of the headlines. Chef Amanda Cohen of New York City vegetarian tasting-menu restaurant Dirt Candy opened fast casual Lekka Burger in November, focusing on a fresh-made, whole-ingredient, plant-based burger based on a 900-year-old recipe that includes beans and mushrooms. The vegan patty includes “14 ingredients and they can all be found in your kitchen cabinet,” according to Lekka Burger’s website. “Lekka” is South African slang for something that is “awesome and delicious.”


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