The start of a new year is a popular time to reflect on the trends that will affect the coming seasons. One trend hitting the restaurant industry is pizza concept franchisees expanding into the sub sandwich segment. This is a recipe for success as sub and pizza makers discover operating efficiencies, which bring the two businesses together as perfectly as lettuce and tomato.

For pizza concept operators, entering the sub sandwich business is generally a diversification strategy. However, in rarer cases, individuals have sold their existing pizza business to become a sub sandwich operator. In either case, these operators cite one important consideration in their decision to enter the segment: As larger, more mature systems, the pizza chains provide less organic growth opportunity for existing franchisees, particularly in home markets.

The impact of this trend on the Jersey Mike’s system, where the vast majority of our nearly 900 restaurants are owned/operated by franchisees, has been profound. (read more…)

Not too many years ago, the phrase “vegan restaurant” could conjure up images of spartan, tasteless and distinctly unsatisfying fare. Now, veg-savvy chefs are hitting the mainstream, winning over herbivores and omnivores alike with sophisticated, surprising plant-based menus.

Fine-dining eatery Vedge beat out all of Philadelphia’s other restaurants to take the Best Food title in Zagat’s most recent survey of the city’s eateries. And on Thursday, Eater named it one of the top 38 places in the country to eat this year, with a review that ended “The place simply serves breathtaking food that also happens to be vegan.”

“We started this when vegan restaurants were not grouped in with everything else,” said co-owner and chef Rich Landau. “It was like the new age section in the music store, it was in a separate area and you would have to walk through the beaded curtain to the back room to find it.”

Landau and his wife and business partner, Kate Jacoby, began building a mainstream clientele with their earlier restaurant Horizons. (read more…)

Today’s consumers, especially those in the millennial generation, are not easy to win over. Social media has created an environment where consumers feel comfortable voicing their honest opinions. This is often why social media is seen as a double -edged sword. But social media is here to stay and it gives a brand the opportunity to engage with their customers even when they are not at the restaurant.

Understanding and managing the data collected from these social outlets is still somewhat an uncharted territory for restaurant brands. Through the extensive Restaurant Social Media Index, Foodable has dissected and analyzed the overall Top 100 Most Loved Restaurant Brands. The analysis has mined social metrics for roughly 10,800 restaurant entitles and 121 million social restaurant consumers. Read more about how the index works.

The report covers so much more than just the overall most loved brands — including age demographics and frequency in dining occasions for top social consumers, what brands have the highest consumer sentiment in terms of service and food, the top complaints and the most appealing factors of a restaurant to consumers. (read more…)

For restaurants looking to implement a sustainability plan, one of the best places to start is by reducing food waste. As much as 40% percent of the food that is grown, processed and transported in the U.S. will never be consumed, according to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There are a number of ways restaurants can cut their food waste, from donation programs to composting.

SmartBrief interviewed Laura Abshire, the director of sustainability policy and government affairs at the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C., about different methods of reducing food waste and how restaurants can benefit from food waste reduction. Abshire leads the Association’s work on energy and environmental policy and related advocacy efforts, works extensively with its Conserve initiative and also is the NRA’s liaison for the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a joint effort with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute, to help reduce, reuse and recycle food waste in the retail and foodservice industries. (read more…)

From red velvet to pumpkin, croissant hybrids to savory sweets, desserts have showcased a huge number of changing trends over the past few years. But what are consumers actually eating? And what do they want to eat? For Datassential‘s upcoming MenuTrends Keynote report, which combines survey data directly from consumers with menuing and trend data from our MenuTrends database, we are taking a look at the current state of the dessert market, from cakes to pies to cookies. Here’s a sneak peak at some early results from this extensive report.

Chocolate reigns supreme

Consumers’ love of chocolate almost can’t be overstated. Chocolate cake — any variety — was not only the most eaten cake variety by the percentage of consumers who chose it within the last two weeks (26%), but it was also the most loved cake variety — in fact, over half of consumers said they love chocolate cake. (read more…)