Just a few years ago, most Americans probably never heard of Nando’s or peri-peri sauce, but in the U.K., Nando’s was just as much of a household name as McDonald’s. The Portuguese grilled chicken chain actually originates from South Africa, and after gaining cult-like status in the U.K., Nando’s made a splash in the U.S. where it has had success in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Of course, Nando’s isn’t the only international chain that’s seen success in the U.S. Datassential has traveled across the world in our coverage of restaurants overseas with our International Concepts Trendspotting Report, highlighting chains such as Tim Hortons and Freshii from Canada or grab-and-go concept Pret a Manger from the U.K.

The question is, what’s next? What international chains should the industry keep an eye on? We’ve covered several concepts that are poised for expansion, and with an improving economy and an ever-growing fast casual restaurant segment, it might be the perfect time for new chains to journey into the U.S. (read more…)

Eateries from white-tablecloth restaurants to casual chains have been on a mission to improve their bar menus for several years, with new twists on familiar fried favorites and original exotic dishes designed to keep patrons sipping and spending from happy hour to late night.

Chains have been spicing up their offerings, with bar menus like Applebee’s new Apps & Bar Snacks menu, BennigansCrowd Pleasers and Chili’s extensive appetizer list. But independent eateries have greater leeway to get even more creative and to change bar menus up on short notice.

“We love to eat, and we get bored easily,” said Kate Jacoby, co-owner of V Street in Philadelphia. “So we are always experimenting with new stuff. Just the other day, we ran a meaty South African sandwich called a Gatsby. We made ours with seitan. The beauty of it is stuffing it with some crispy french fries and a tangy sauce.” The sandwich was a hit, and now the team’s “looking for new inspiration — new ways to play,” she said. (read more…)

Whether it’s a fresh-cooked burger made on your grill, a mini cheeseburger slider from your neighborhood pub, or a classic lettuce-tomato-pickle burger from your favorite fast food chain, chances are you’ve had some type of burger recently. In Datassential’s latest MenuTrends Keynote Report on burgers, we found that three out of four Americans consume at least one burger in any given week. In our extensive report, we showcase key insights on what types of burgers consumers eat most, where they eat them and how operators can get a piece of the burger business.

Burgers 101

Being able to grill outside is the top reason consumers eat burgers at home. Otherwise, for the majority of Americans, burgers are an away-from-home affair. The speed and ease of purchasing a burger at a restaurant is the main barrier to at-home consumption, but even so, the majority of consumers still would rather create burgers from scratch at home, versus using frozen or pre-formed patties. (read more…)

New data sources, along with artistic product descriptions and a lack of classification standards, have dumped a mound of valuable but hard to interpret data on our doorstep. Now what?

Sweetgreen, Panera, McDonald's

We at Food Genius see food and think data. No matter if we’re looking at a menu, a receipt or an elaborate product description from a supplier, we see food terminology and think data. For example, let’s look at three Thai/Asian salads: the Rad Thai Salad from SweetGreen, the Thai Chicken Salad from Panera, and the Premium Asian Salad with Crispy Chicken from McDonald’s. Salads are simple, right? Just greens, vegetables, a protein and dressing. Ah, but we all know life just isn’t that easy. The true insight is in the detail.

Between SweetGreen, Panera and McDonald’s, they have more than 30 distinct salads on their core menus. To even begin understanding this from a data standpoint, we need to cluster (or what Food Genius calls “normalize”) them by type. (read more…)

As soon as you walk into Nashville’s Pinewood Social, you’ll notice there are a variety of things to do and places to eat. Will it be a game of bowling today, or a quick dip in the pool, complete with an outdoor menu of mahi mahi tacos and churros? Still more options to choose from: a coffee and tea stand, bocce ball, private karaoke rooms, and a lounge living room.

Similarly, when you walk into the Chicago French Market, perhaps you’ll visit an artisan producer festival, take the kids to visit the Easter bunny, sample gourmet truffles, or enjoy a live accordion concert.

Both hangout concepts like Pinewood Social and food halls like the Chicago French Market are examples of growing restaurant concepts that are blending food with experience. At hangout concepts, it’s about offering food with the addition of entertainment options to attract a wide range of consumers- whether it’s young families, foodies, or experience-seeking millennials. (read more…)