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…)

Legend has it that Alan Stillman launched the original T.G.I. Friday’s on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 1965 in an effort to meet airline stewardesses. He aimed to create a lively environment within the four walls of the restaurant to encourage men and women to gather to consume food and drink and connect with one another. Promotions like Ladies’ Night did the trick and Stillman’s Friday’s became an institution that set the table for the rise of the casual dining segment. In the decades that followed, new casual dining competitors cropped up with less of a singles focus, but with the same drive to create a meeting place inside the four walls. Perhaps they became the original “third place,” to borrow Howard Schultz’s phrase, that was neither the home nor the workplace.

Over recent years, the restaurant industry has grown and stolen market share away from grocery, as both compete for what Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President, Research & Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association calls “the food dollar.” That has led to less cooking at home and more depending upon the restaurants whose food we love to serve as our surrogate home kitchen, sparking new opportunities for restaurants in off-premise sales: food prepared in the restaurant kitchen, but not consumed by the guest in the restaurant dining room. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by TraceGains.

Anne Kraus knows the importance of a good education.

Kraus, the VP of quality at E.&J. Gallo Winery, and the daughter of a university professor and a kindergarten teacher, believes that to succeed in quality assurance and food safety, learning must never end.

“It is something my parents instilled in me — to always be a curious student, regardless of your age and stage in life, and to have fun learning,” she says.

By carefully studying the processes involved in product production, Krause finds it easier to manage problems when they arise, and to understand how product variations can originate.

Kraus’s scope at Gallo encompasses enterprise-wide quality and food safety — “I start at the grape, and go all the way to the consumer’s glass,” she says. She recently spoke with SmartBrief about lessons she’s learned from nearly 30 years of industry practice, including several years at General Mills and Quaker Oats before she joined Gallo in 2012. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Evergreen Packaging.

Linda Gilbert is founder and CEO EcoFocus Worldwide, LLC, and founder and former president of HealthFocus International. She brings more than 30 years as a market researcher and strategy consultant helping companies link their product benefits to consumer and nutrition trends.

She’s done extensive qualitative and quantitative studies for food and beverage manufacturers and other in the industry. She talked with SmartBrief about the trends of healthy beverage shoppers and how companies can take advantage of this shift in consumer attitudes.

What are the characteristics of a healthy beverage shopper?

Healthy beverage shoppers make up nearly half of all shoppers – 46% fall into this influential category. Healthy beverage shoppers always or often choose beverages for health reasons. They wield $5.8 trillion in spending power and are driving growth in value-added beverages. They are 40% more likely than all grocery shoppers to live in middle and upper income households, and 71% live in households earning more than $50,000 annually. (read more…)

I recall a business meeting where my team hosted 20 colleagues from Japan. At the end of the meeting, each and every one of our guests twisted the cap back onto his soda bottle and placed it in his bag. I had noticed cultural differences via greetings and meeting behaviors throughout the day. This action, however, transcended customs and geographies and I realized in that moment that appreciation for beauty and art is a universal human trait. These people “liked” this showstopper packaging design and decided to keep it. These particular bottles were the streamlined metal Coke and Diet Coke bottles, and would undoubtedly be put on display when they returned home.

Historically, consumers held onto packaging only if it served a functional purpose. Cigar boxes, coffee tins and Quaker Oats canisters were repurposed as storage or toys. They ended up sticking around for days, months or years as subtle reminders of the brand. (read more…)