FSR January 2023
FULL-SERVICE RESTAURANTS : SETTING AMERICA’S TABLE NO. 109
810 BILLIARDS & BOWLING GOES BIG SNOOZE’S ‘CHANGE MAKER’
BUILDING A BETTER BOWL SURVIVING NEGATIVE REVIEWS
AND UP AWAY CEO RICKY RICHARDSON BREAKS DOWN THE SECRET TO SUCCESS BEHIND EGGS UP GRILL
NEXTGEN TRENDSETTERS NINE LEADERS DISCUSS INNOVATION AT THEIR RESTAURANTS AND THE GREATER INDUSTRY
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FSR January2023 No. 109
28 EGGS UP GRILL IS
28Up, Up, and Away With a veteran leadership team in place, regional breakfast concept Eggs Up Grill has the menu, atmo sphere, and value proposition to saturate the Southeast and beyond. And that’s why it’s our Breakout Brand of the Year. Innovation is at the heart of Next Gen Casual, so we went directly to thought leaders at nine different brands to get a peek behind the curtain of their own creative pro cesses and hear what’s in store for the restaurant sector. CHEFS & INGREDI ENT S 15 Bringing It All Together Chef Kenny Gilbert has always sought opportunities to both learn and teach, and it’s something he’s continuing to do with a new role at Grove Bay Hospitality and a busi ness foray into franchising. 20 Bowled Over The humble bowl is a favorite in fast casual, but sit-down restaurants are beginning to recognize the car rier’s versatile menu applications. L IQUID INT EL L I GENCE 23 Boozy Breakfast Is Here to Stay Frommimosa and Bloody Mary variations to new concoctions, alco holic beverages in the morning are a major draw for consumers and a margin booster for operators. 36NextGen Trendsetters
THE 2023 BREAKOUT BRAND OF THE YEAR.
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FSRmagazine.com January2023 No. 109
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F I RS T COURSE 9 One Gigantic Restauarnt
comments can take a toll on businesses. Here’s how to bounce back from less-than favorable reviews. 53 Striking It Lucky ON THE RISE 810 Billiards & Bowling might have started in South Carolina, but expe rienced franchisees are ready to take the eatertainment brand to new markets across the country. 56 Start Me Up Malaysian concept Phat Eat ery is expanding to a satellite city in Houston’s energy cor ridor, where many residents are familiar with the South east Asian cuisine. AL SO IN THI S I SSUE 4 Highlights from FSRmagazine.com 4 Brand Stories in Print and Online
Celebrated chef and humani tarian José Andrés reflects on the war in Ukraine and the role chefs and restaurateurs
play in crisis situations. 10 A Cut Above Americans love steak,
whether eating out or cook ing at home, but some cuts (hint: rib-eye) are more uni versally beloved than others.
BACK OF HOUSE 49 Snooze’s Change Maker BEHIND THE SCENES As direc tor of impact, Clint Hughey leads multiple initiatives at Snooze, ensuring the brand is always upholding and improving its ESG values. 51 Surviving Negative Reviews YOUR TAKE Consumers place a great deal of trust in online reviews, so negative
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CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN HIRES JEFF WARNE AS CEO The industry veteran, who has served on the CPK board of directors for two years, replaces Jim Hyatt who helmed the brand for nearly five years. FSRmagazine.com/Jeff-Warne-CPA CRACKER BARREL STRUGGLES WITH OLDER CUSTOMERS The chain’s chief marketing offi cer said the demographic is experiencing high financial inse curity and has a negative out look on the future. FSRmagazine.com/Older-Customers FIRST WATCH IS WINNING OVER GUESTS WITH TRUST Consistency and a core value proposition are helping the breakfast chain buck downward industry trends. FSRmagazine.com/First-Watch-Trust Cold Brew, Simplified for All Day Menuing and Increased Margins New one-stop solutions are spark ing beverage innovation. SPONSORED BY SEGAFREDO ZANETTI Cracking the Code on Back of-House Efficiency Dive into a few ways to simplify operations and stay efficent. SPONSORED BY KERRY AMERICAS A Look at 4 Southern Food Trends Celebrity chefs and restaurateurs share what’s next. SPONSORED BY UNILEVER FOOD SOLUTIONS
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ToBe of Service IN DECEMBER (aka the season of giving and goodwill), I watched two very different chefs share their thoughts and philosophy around hospital ity. rough their words and actions, both chefs revealed just how deeply ingrained the desire to serve is in the restaurant industry—though they did so in very different ways. e first was chef and humanitarian José Andrés, who appeared on a virtual forum to discuss his career and non profit, World Central Kitchen. I won’t go into the details here (you can read the story online at fsrmagazine.com/Andres-on-Ukraine or check out an abridged version on PAGE 9 ), but suffice it to say, Andrés’s drive to be of ser vice and to take care of others goes far beyond his restaurants’ four walls. And that’s the case with many other chefs and foodservice professionals. Just days after attending this online forum, I watched the new horror/ satire film, e Menu , in which Ralph Fiennes deftly portrays a chef who is, for all intents and purposes, the very antithesis of Andrés. In an over-the top, unrealistic manner, the film explores what happens when a sense of hospitality sours into hostility. And yet, for all its darkness, the movie still circles back to that deep-seated need to serve others and the strong bonds such a dynamic cultivates. Open any issue of FSR , and you’ll find that a generous spirit is indeed the through line, whether it’s a story about collaborating with other chefs ( PAGE 15 ), improving breakfast with specialty cocktails ( PAGE 23 ), or learning how to better serve guests after slipping up ( PAGE 51 ). Our 2023 Breakout Brand of the Year, Eggs Up Grill, credits its success to many factors, but hospitality is perhaps the most important ( PAGE 28 ). Similarly, many of our NextGen Trendsetters emphasized that innovation should never come at the expense of exceptional service ( PAGE 36 ). Most foodservice folks won’t go into war-torn countries like Andrés, but that same spirit of generosity is already present in restaurants across the globe. For all his madness, Fiennes’s chef in e Menu is right in his obser vation that dining is an ephemeral experience; its fleeting nature makes it all the more special. A dinner may be brief in the grand scheme, but the desire to nourish is innate and enduring. Need proof? Look no further than your peers and your own restaurant.
Nicole@FSRmagazine.com FSRmag @FSRmagazine
On the Cover This month’s cover of Eggs Up Grill CEO Ricky Richardson was shot by photogra pher Laura Fritz . Based in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Fritz specializes in family and portrait photography. This is the first time her work has appeared in FSR . To learn more about Fritz, visit her website laurafritzphotography.mypixieset.com or follow her at @laurafritzphotography on Instagram.
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FirstCourse José Andrés
made multiple trips to Ukraine in 2022 and will return this year.
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But while Andrés's accomplishments in a year are the sort that most chefs can only dream of achieving over the course of a whole career, another endeavor personally eclipses them all: his work with the non governmental organization he founded a dozen years ago, World Central Kitchen.
LAST YEAR WAS A BUSY ONE for José Andrés. The D.C.-based chef opened new con cepts in Los Angeles and New York and hosted an exclusive dining series in cit ies across the U.S. Then, in late December, he starred in a Discovery+ series, “José Andrés and Family in Spain.”
Chef José Andrés says restaurants' ubiquity makes them ideal allies in disaster relief.
“Besides my family and friends and my business and being a proud Wash ingtonian, this has become one of the most special things I’ll ever do in my life,” Andrés said in a forum hosted by D.C. law firm ArentFox Schiff. Indeed, the chef’s humanitarian work has come to rival his culinary mas tery in recent years, particularly in 2022 when he was on the ground in Ukraine. From the chef’s point of view, he and his restaurant peers are ideal allies in disaster relief. “I don’t need to own 10,000 restau rants across America [that are] ‘stra tegically’ located in case something happens. The restaurants are already there,” Andrés said. “Think about it: America is a gigantic restaurant. There’s no reason why, at any moment, food should become a problem.” In the early days of World Central Kitchen, Andrés would sometimes have to get the ball rolling and mobilize fel low chefs and restaurateurs. Now, it’s a more organic process—something he credits, in part, to the pandemic. “It’s not just me anymore. At this point, we all call each other,” Andrés says. “This creates, over the years, a network. Not only in emergencies, but also in the good times.” World Central Kitchen usually arrives in the aftermath of natural disasters, but Ukraine posed a different chal lenge. The organization first went to the Polish border to help refugees but has since expanded into the country. “Ukraine is the war that shouldn’t be happening. And that’s why we’re here,” Andrés said. The chef plans to return to the coun try this month. After all, consistency and a spirit of service are the hallmarks of hospitality, whether in the restaurant or on the battlefield. “You go one day and you show up the day after and you show up the third day and the fourth and the fifth. In the process, you see how locally there are enough resources and people that can help you provide aid,” he says. “This is a great way to lift up communities after a catastrophe.”
WHEN IT COMES TO STEAK CUTS AND PREPARATION, consumers have clear opinions. According to a new survey from wholesaler Meats by Linz , medium rare was the favored degree of doneness when dining out and at home. Medium-well took second place for eating at restaurants, as compared to medium when cooking at home. In terms of cut, rib-eye was far and away the most popular , while bavette (flank) was only deemed a preferred choice by a small portion of respondents. Cu bov
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Despite the staffing shortages of recent years, res taurants are laying off a greater percentage of their employees than pre-Covid levels, per Black Box Intelligence . In 2019, 24 percent of hourly front of-house exits and 21 percent of hourly back-of house exits were involuntary, but in 2020, invol untary terminations accounted for half of all turnover . Even at the managerial level, it was a considerable climb, rising from 29 to 43 percent for general managers. These terminations—as well as voluntary resignations—are expensive for opera tors. Adding up the hard costs of separa tion, replacement, and training, Black INVOLUNTARY TURNOVER TAKES ITS TOLL
Box Intelligence estimates it costs $1,956 to replace an hourly team member, $9,148 to replace a man ager, and $14,404 to replace a general manager.
DIGITAL FOODPRINT W ord of mouth still carries plenty of weight in attracting new guests, but an online presence is now proving just as crucial. Restaurant software provider TouchBistro found that 84 percent of consumers in the U.S. and Canada check a restau rant’s menu online before deciding to visit . Similarly, 79 percent will explore its website. This data suggests all restaurants, including those with frequently chang ing menus, should make a point of posting their o erings online—even if it’s just a sample menu.
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CULINARY INSPIRATION AND STORIES FROM INDUSTRY TRAILBLAZERS MENTIONED IN THIS SECTION GROVE BAY HOSPITALITY • • •
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FOR CHEF KENNY GILBERT, the best culinary career is one that pulls from multiple disciplines. Over the past 30 years, he’s honed his craft both on the kitchen side of foodservice as well as the management and business perspective. He’s well versed in switching from catering and hyper-casual cuisine to luxury fine dining on a dime—a result of decades spent in the hotel and resort space. “There are a lot of moving parts, so you have to be very organized with time
BY NICOLE DUNCAN Chef Kenny Gilbert is bringing multiple restaurants into perfect harmony.
CHEFS & INGREDI ENT S CHEF PROF I LE
management. You have to be able to shift gears; one minute, you could be in a pool bar restaurant, cranking out chicken ten ders and french fries, and then you shift to being in the fine-dining restaurant that’s a $200 average check per person, putting out multi-course meals,” Gilbert says. “Working in hotels gave me that diversity.” In addition to his work in hotels, Gilbert is an entrepreneur who has built multiple businesses (from CPG spice blends to restaurants), competed on “Top Chef,” and even snagged praise from none other than Oprah Winfrey. These wide-ranging experiences have made Gilbert a shoo-in for his new role as vice president of culinary operations at Grove Bay Hospitality. The Miami based group comprises a number of
concepts created by multiple (and often star-studded) chefs, including Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Overton; Michelin-starred Stubborn Seed and Beauty & the Butcher from “Top Chef ” champion Jeremy Ford; and Stubborn Seed, Stiltsville Fish Bar, and Mi ’talia from another pair of “Top Chef” alums, Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis. Grove Bay previously had a corpo rate chef, which was similar in spirit to Gilbert’s position, but the title change marks a shift in how the growing group will operate moving forward. “My job is to be the voice of the chef when they’re not present—because they’re growing their brand, and they’re doing a lot of different things—and [to] understand what I call the sacred cows of the operation. What makes a Red
Rooster, Red Rooster? What makes a Stubborn Seed, Stubborn Seed? What makes Mi’talia, Mi’talia?” he says. “You have to respect the chef for who they are as a professional and what they’ve accomplished in their career and in building their brand, but then also have the confidence to be able to give exam ples of how to make it better.” It’s a fine line to walk, but Gilbert does so with aplomb. Recently, the chef made a small suggestion while review ing theMi’talia menu withMcInnis. e restaurant’s cheese plate had two Ameri can varieties and only one Italian cheese; Gilbert recommended that, in keeping with the Italian focus of the restaurant, they switch it to be two Italian and one domestic cheese. “I’ve known Jeff for a long time. He
FAVORITE KITCHEN TOOL: French knife INGREDIENT OF THEMOMENT: Chicken TOP TRENDOF 2023: More fast casuals, like Ricky Moore’s Saltbox Seafood Joint CHEF YOU’DMOST LIKE TO WORKWITH: Jeremy Ford
GILBERT IS WORKING WITH CHEFS JANINE BOOTH AND JEFF MCINNIS ON ROOT & BONE, WHICH SERVES UPSCALE SOUTHERN FARE.
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Gilbert has made a point to nurture his team just as his parents once did for him. He also names several general man agers and chefs as important mentors, from those who first recognized his tal ent and showed him the ropes to others who exposed him to global cuisines and the business side of foodservice. On this latter point, it was Lawrence McFadden at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida, who encouraged Gilbert to think beyond the kitchen. McFadden himself started as a chef, but after he left Amelia Island for a corporate role, he advised Gilbert to consider broaden ing his own experience. “I remember like yesterday. He said, ‘Kenny, you’re selling yourself short by only being a fine-dining chef. At some point, you need to leave in order to really grow to who you are capable of being,’” Gilbert says. “He said, ‘Imagine you can
be in charge of the whole hotel or multi ple units and you can take all your expe riences and your passion and put them into every area that you touch.’” The chef admits he didn’t fully grasp the wisdom of McFadden’s words at first, but it didn’t take long for him to follow the advice. Just a few months later, he assumed his first executive chef position at a high-end, multiunit luxury club in Naples, Florida. “I realized that was my cal ling. I couldn’t just do one [property]; I would be bored,” he adds. Even now, in this new, dynamic posi tion with Grove Bay, Gilbert has other irons in the fire. He sells proprietary spice blends online, and his first-ever cookbook, SouthernCooking, Global Flavors , will debut this April. Add to that, Gilbert boasts an original concept of his own, Silkie’s Champagne & Chicken. The fine casual, which, true to its name, touts a counter intuitive pairing, was recently named one of the top 10 champagne bars stateside by the Champagne BureauUSA—it was also the only concept in the Southeast to land on the list. Interestingly enough, Gilbert credits a phone call withOprah for galva nizing him to start Silkie’s. He’d cooked for the mega-star in the past, who is a vocal fan of his chicken biscuits. And those biscuits could soon be wel coming more fans into the fold. Gilbert hired a company to put together a fran chise package for a more casual itera tion of Silkie’s called Kenny’s Chicken & Biscuits. Though the role of franchisor is a far cry fromVP of culinary operations, both positions draw on Gilbert’s innate ability to marry culinary chops with manage ment know-how and a genuine desire to raise others up. “I can help other people buy into my company, and I can help train them to open up their concept because the teach ing part was what was great for me. I felt like I was paying it forward,” Gilbert says. “I have a saying that as you learn, you teach, and as you teach, you learn. It’s a beautiful cycle, and so that’s what keeps memotivated.That’s why I feel I do pretty well in this type of environment.”
used to be my sous chef back in the day when we were at the Ritz-Carlton, so I know his style and understand how he thinks,” Gilbert says. “Sometimes you go cross-eyed; you need somebody else to look at it from another perspective. And I think [the chefs] respect me enough to do that.” Indeed, relationships built onmutual respect have been a hallmark of Gilbert’s career, and that emphasis can be traced back to his earliest days in the kitchen. Like somany in the industry, his interest in all things culinary was first sparked by cooking with family. The chef remem bers how his mother put him at the stovetop to scramble eggs at 3, and how his father had him preparing meats on a Weber grill not long after. By 11, Gil bert was spearheading theThanksgiving feast for his whole family. As he’s risen in the kitchen ranks,
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CHEFS & INGREDI ENT S NOW SERVING
BY CALLIE EVERGREEN Full-service restaurants are borrowing one of fast casual’s favorite carriers.
TRUE FOOD KITCHEN’S ANCIENT GRAINS BOWL
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IN THE FACE OF high labor and rent costs and limited real estate, some full service concepts are launching lim ited-service prototypes. But a question remains: How can bowls benefit full ser vice when fast casuals like Chipotle seem to dominate the carrier? Big Bowl, a six-unit Chinese and ai concept under Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, has offered a customizable Chef ’s Choice Stir Fry Bowl since the brand’s inception. “It’s allowed us to provide a welcome
choice for the health-conscious diner,” says Howard Katz, president of Big Bowl and sister concept, Wildfire. “It’s another avenue for people who like to customize their meals, with choice of rice or noodle, protein, sauce, etc.” To create the signature stir-fry bowls, Big Bowl’s executive chef paired comple mentary vegetables and seasonal offer ings, Katz says, “while also thinking of flexible customization to meet guests’ dietary requirements and preferences.” ese options include a low-carb cauli
flower rice base, as well as multiple veg etarian options. The Chef ’s Choice Stir Fry bowl includes snow peas, broccoli, green beans, red onions, baby bok choy, car rots, red peppers, and bean sprouts, but guests select their base (rice or noodles), protein, and sauce, ranging from yellow curry kung pao with peanuts to Shang hai ginger garlic. Scott Lawton, founder and CEO of NextGen chain Bartaco, says the deci sion to add bowl options came early
NOW SERVING CHEFS & INGREDI ENT S
in the 24-unit brand’s journey. Bowls offered the opportunity to leverage ingredients the restaurant already had on hand in a fresh format, without need ing to source new supply chainmaterials. “You can expand your menu without having to expand your order, so you have more effective purchasing and can buy everything in larger quantities,” Law ton says. During the innovation process, Law ton’s culinary team tried to figure out which kind of tacos made sense in a bowl format. For example, fish and slaw didn’t work, he says, since you don’t want “cold coleslaw on top of hot rice with a long piece of fish in it.” On the other hand, the R&D team discovered that Korean rib eye with a sweet sesame-soy glaze mar inade and spicy kimchi worked great in bowl or taco formats. In another example of trial and error, Bartaco experimented with serving plat ters of chicken, steak, fish, and stacks of tortillas on wooden cutting boards. “But at the same time, that’s not why people were coming to Bartaco. We felt that was diluting what Bartaco was, which is this healthy lifestyle, high energy escape in a fun brand that’s not a typical Mexican restaurant,” Lawton says. “We thought a bowl of brown rice with proteins and veggies on top very much feeds into that bold, healthy life style that we were trying to capture.” Bartaco serves signature bowls ,including spiced chicken verde with a chile and herb marinade, ancho-crusted ahi tuna with Asian slaw, herb-mari nated and roasted wildmushrooms with roasted poblano chile sauce and queso fresco, and roasted duck with a tama rind glaze. Lawton credits bowls for helping ele vate the Bartaco menu, and he estimates such sales account for about 15–20 per cent of overall business. “It gives the menu a sense of having more options, looks a little more full, and gives people more choices,” he says. Like many restaurants, Bartaco heav ily relied on takeout and delivery dur ing the pandemic, but taco transport posed a problem—namely, they wilted
BOWLS ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE TACOS AT BARTACO.
BARTACO / MANNY VARGAS
yaki Quinoa Bowl are the top-sellers. The former features amix of brown rice, farro, and quinoa cooked with garlic, ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass, plus grilled portobello mushrooms, charred onions, snap peas, miso-glazed sweet potatoes topped with sesame seeds, sliced avocado, cilantro pesto, and garnished with hemp seeds. (One of the other benefits of bowls is the chance to fill it up with a myriad of creative ingredients.) “We tested several different bowl options and landed on offerings that were a mix of f lavors, textures, and spices,” Augustin says. “A few of our bowls are on the spicier side—Spicy Pan ang Curry and Korean Noodle Bowl— while the Ancient Grains and Teriyaki Quinoa Bowl include more grains and vegetables to keep you full and satisfied.” As a 46-unit health food concept with the goal to infuse meals with nutri ent-dense ingredients, bowls also offer True Food Kitchen the opportunity to add mindfully sourced protein options such as grass-fed steak, shrimp, grilled chicken, or tofu, Augustin says. “Bowls are a dish that people love because of the ability to include so many different ingredients, textures, and fla vors in one dish,” he adds.
from crunchy to soggy. To combat this issue and uphold brand quality stan dards, Bartaco would only deliver decon structed taco kits in bento-style boxes. That was also where the benefit of bowls became especially apparent. “A bowl will hold up better than a taco in delivery,” Lawton says. “If I’m order ing from anywhere else that’s not doing what we’re doing, I tend to get a bowl over a crispy taco, because I know it’s going to be soggy by the time we get it.” True Food Kitchens added bowls to the menu for the first time in 2017 when the brand noticed the carrier gain ing popularity. “We wanted to get ahead of the curve,” says Jon Augustin, vice president of food and beverage at True Food Kitchen. Now, bowls make up about 20–25 per cent of the restaurant’s total menu mix, and the Ancient Grains Bowl and Teri
TRENDS AND CREATIVE APPROACHES TO SPIRITS, WINE, AND BEER. MENTIONED IN THIS STORY TOASTED YOLK • • • SNOOZE • • •
ANOTHER BROKEN EGG
Boozy Breakfast ISHERETOSTAY
SNOOZE’S DRINK MENU INCLUDES SEASONAL SPECIALS, LIKE THE PUMPKIN SPICE MARTINI.
WHILE THE RISE of NextGen break fast and brunch brands has been fueled by a number of factors, such as elevated menus and vibrant spaces, nothing brings a fresh, celebratory twist to the morning daypart quite like
the beverage menu. Unlike many legacy breakfast play ers, these up-and-comers are embrac ing alcoholic drinks that include sta ples like mimosas and Bloody Marys, as well as less expected libations. The
BY NICOLE DUNCAN Alcohol is driving business and interest in NextGen breakfast.
L IQUID INTELL IGENCE
creativity behind these beverages was once strictly the realm of evening estab lishments. And while some flash-in-the pan trends quickly fizzle, boozy break fast/brunch is carving a permanent spot in the full-service space. “Is this a trendwith legs for the future? Absolutely,” says Robin Gagnon, CEO of We Sell Restaurants, a broker franchise specializing in restaurant sales. “If restau rants see this pay off financially, expect to see more than coffee or tea on early morning menus.” In terms of dollars and cents, serving drinks is a no-brainer. As Gagnon points “We have a saying at Another Broken Egg that brunchwithout alcohol is just a sad breakfast.” out, average profit margins on alcoholic beverages can reach as high as 70 per cent; food, on the other hand, hovers closer to 25 percent. “Alcohol sales in restaurants are com monplace for full-service dining and sports bars and clubs. at’s all changing, however, as alcohol emerges on menus starting with the breakfast daypart and extending into brunch and lunch,” Gagnon adds. From a cost perspective, the morn ing daypart has historically been a less expensive operation. The menus at chains like IHOP may be extensive, but throughput is fast and simple. Ingredi ents are typically less expensive, too. NextGen concepts may serve slightly more labor-intensive items and source pricier ingredients, but they can also charge a premium. Furthermore, these restaurants edge out their legacy counterparts in shorter hours of operation (often only one shift per day) that require fewer employ ees, but still manage to pull compara ble unit volumes. (For example, First Watch and Denny’s were neck and neck in 2021, with both posting $1.7 million
THE BAR IS A CENTRAL FOCUS AT ANOTHER BROKEN EGG, WHICH SERVES NEW DRINKS AND CLASSICS, LIKE THE BLOODY MARY.
ANOTHER BROKEN EGG (2)
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in AUVs; IHOP was just slightly higher at $1.9 million.) Texas-based Toasted Yolk had beer and wine on the menu when its first store opened in 2010, but it took another five years before its offerings expanded to spirits. As owner and cofounder Chris Milton explains, liquor licenses were
“When we started, everybody was kind of a rooster-on-the-wall, country breakfast place, and we wanted to be something different,” he says. “That bar just makes up such a neat part of our atmosphere; it’s in the center of our res taurants. We start with the bar and then build out from there.”
roots. (Although the chain is now head quartered in Florida, it started in south ern Louisiana.) “We have a saying at Another Broken Egg that brunch without alcohol is just a sad breakfast,” Macaluso says. “Brunch is about amazing food and ‘spirited’ con nections, which includes both the rela
THE TOASTED YOLK’S JACK’S HOT CHOCOLATE PAIRS WELL WITH SWEET OR SAVORY DISHES, LIKE THE SOUTHERN FRIED ARNOLD (BELOW).
TOASTED YOLK (3)
“That bar just makes up such a neat part of our atmosphere; it’s in the center of our restaurants. We start with the bar and then build out from there.”
Over the past decade or so, Milton has observed a shift in consumer habits, starting with his wife and her friends,
tionships you foster and the beverages you enjoy together.” As interest in the more “spirited” side of things has grown, Another Broken Egg has expanded its beverage list in kind, with seasonally driven, limited time options. It also suggests drink pair ings for LTO dishes, such as the Tito’s & Watermelon Red Bull cocktail alongside the Brunch Short Ribs, which feature a watermelon reduction sauce. The Toasted Yolk also rolls out spe cials and pairings. Milton estimates that mimosa and BloodyMary orders account for 65 percent of all alcohol sales, but seasonal LTOs bring a fresh twist. In mid-November, the brand introduced
hefty in the Lone Star State, and as a new entrant in the breakfast space, The Toasted Yolk didn’t realize what a draw those drinks could be. “A wine-based Bloody Mary just doesn’t get the job done. So we ended up making the change,” Milton says. Now, Bloody Mary sales are nearly as high as mimosa sales. Even though it took a few years for The Toasted Yolk to expand its beverage menu, Milton says the bar was always a central focus.
who now prefer weekend brunch for their social gatherings rather than din ner. Breakfast and brunch have become more of a destination, he says. Paul Macaluso, CEO of Another Bro ken Egg, has witnessed a similar evolu tion. In 2016, alcohol sales comprised just 6 percent of sales; today it’s more than double, at 15 percent. Like The Toasted Yolk, Another Bro ken Egg has focused on the bar element since day one—something Macaluso attributes to the brand’s New Orleans
Jack’s Spiked Hot Chocolate, which features Jack Daniels whiskey and is topped with whipped cream and Oreo crum bles, making it a natural accompaniment for the new Double Stuffed Oreo Waffle. Snooze an a.m. Eatery was arguably ahead of the curve on the breakfast beverage front. Since opening in 2006, the Denver-based brand has had a full liquor license and served signature libations. “We try to put a creative twist on familiar cocktails, bring ing something different to the category,” says Becky Fairchild, senior brand manager for Snooze. “Our Bloody Marys and mimosas are a good example; we have the classics but also provide a different experience through unique ingredients.” The restaurant uses a proprietary Bloody Mary mix, made by partner CPG brand The Real Dill, and infuses its vodka with jalapeño and habanero. Other menu strongholds include the Blood Orange Mimosa and the Snoozeberry Cereal Milk Martini (vodka, house-made strawberry coulis, cane syrup, oat milk, and a fresh strawberry). Starting in a state like Colorado, where alcohol regulations aren’t especially restrictive for restaurants, Snooze did face new hurdles when it expanded into certainmarkets. Fairchild offers North Carolina as an example; its restaurants can only order alcohol through state-owned liquor stores, whichmade it difficult for Snooze to source specialty spirits—especially at commercial volumes. “The big challenge is that every state is different. We have to figure out what is needed in each state and county,” Fair child says. “Sometimes we need a hearing to present our case for approval, sometimes we need certain inspections to hap pen before we can receive our license, and oftentimes, con struction delays have a huge impact on getting it on time.” Despite these complications, Snooze has managed to push its footprint to more than 50 units, including a trio of loca tions in North Carolina. For all the potential obstacles and extra costs that come with a boozy brunch, a growing legion of brands clearly finds the effort worthwhile. Beyond boosting revenues, these res taurants are also growing their foot traffic by catering to groups that might otherwise be overlooked. One of the top performers in The Toasted Yolk system is the Beaumont, Texas, store. Its success is driven in no small part by the oil and gas industry nearby, whose workers will visit for a meal and drink after a night shift at the refinery. In other locations, The Toasted Yolk offers what Milton describes as a “reverse happy hour.” Called Scrub Love, this discounted timeframe caters to medical professionals who work nights. “When they get off of work and need to unwind, there’s nowhere to go,” Milton says. “We’re located by a lot of hospi tals. We’ll open up at 7 o’clock in the morning and have five or six doctors or nurses coming in, and that’s their happy hour time. So we give them half off their drinks, and it’s turned out to be a pretty neat partnership.”
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EGGS UP GRILL REVEALED A CHEERY NEW DESIGN IN 2019.
BREAKOUT BRAND OF THE YEAR
UP, UP, AWAY an With an experienced leader at the helm and local franchisees on the ground, Eggs Up Grill is poised to bring its welcoming atmosphere and approachable menu to markets across the Southeast. A BY NICOLE DUNCAN
EGGS UP GRILL
ever a restaurant dining room embodied the overall brand spirit, it would be Eggs Up Grill. The cheery interior, with its robin egg blues, yolk yellows, gingham tiles, and blonde hardwoods, is at once inviting and homey. In so many ways, the design speaks to what makes the restaurant different from others in the breakfast category, both legacy chains and fellow NextGen Casuals. Eggs Up Grill has the relaxed vibe of a diner but with a decidedly more polished look. At the same time, the restaurant boasts offerings and price points that fall below other emerging breakfast brands.
“The breakfast space has gotten really active
a value perspective, [and] a friendliness standpoint.” A TGI Fridays alum, Richardson came on board in 2018, shortly after WJ Part ners acquired the then 26-unit brand and moved its headquarters to Spartan burg, South Carolina (which also hap pens to be the homebase for Denny’s). With the combination of Richardson’s experience, private equity funds, and an established brand reputation, Eggs Up
Grill has swelled to nearly 60 locations with another dozen in construction. And that’s just the beginning. The company plans to open 20–25 units next year, pushing its footprint as far north as Richmond, Virginia, as far south as central Florida, and as far west as Texas. Covid may have delayed its expansion timeline, but not by much. Richardson estimates Eggs Up Grill will hit 200 loca tions by the end of 2026, bringing the
over the last decade. The category had a lot of legacy players in it,” says CEO Ricky Richardson. “There’s a sense of sameness across all of those. … So it cre ated the opportunity for people to come in and do a similar type of cuisine with one of those dayparts—breakfast and lunch—and be a specialist in that and do it better from a quality standpoint,
ested in doing that,” he says “There was never any active franchise outreach. So it would have historically been guests of Eggs Up Grill that had been attracted to the brand and wanted to bring it to their community.” Under WJ Partners, the approach is more aggressive, but not overly so. For one, the brand wants to, at least for the foreseeable future, stay in the Southeast, where Richardson believes it could easily reach 400 units without becoming over saturated. Secondly, it’s still connecting with potential partners the way it did under Skodras’s direction: through word of mouth and in-person interactions. That’s how Ron Donaldson first became acquainted with Eggs Up Grill. Now, he’s on track to be the largest fran chisee in the system, planting outposts in the virgin soil of Texas. While working the graveyard shift at Subway as a teen, Donaldson prom ised himself he’d one day own his own— and he made good on that promise. For about 14 years, he operatedmultiple con cepts, including Subway units and some regional brands in both quick and full
unit count to seven times the pre-acqui sition amount in less than a decade. “Growth is always a lot of fun; there’s just an energy and an excitement that comes from growth. [It’s] a lot of work, but a lot of fun times,” Richardson says. A go for growth The origin story of Eggs Up Grill begins on Pawleys Island, a popular vacation spot along the South Carolina coast. In 1997, after about a decade working in his family’s restaurants, Chris Skodras struck out on his own to open a break fast-driven restaurant. From there, growth was organic and measured. The first franchisee agreement was infor mal at best, with Skodras’s brother as the operator. But friends who were McDonald’s franchisees turned Skodras onto the idea of a more formal structure, and a few years after his brother signed on, the brand began to take a more proac tive approach. Though, Richardson spec ifies, it was proactive in that Skodras “would entertain people who were inter
service. Eventually, he sold the business and switched to buying and building apartment buildings. It was on a work trip to Charleston, South Carolina, that Donaldson happened to dine at what he assumed was a local institution. “The atmosphere was great; the peo ple were great. Whenever I go into a res taurant, I’m always assessing things just because of my history, and I assumed it was a local concept. The more I ate there, the more I enjoyed it. Then I found out it was a franchise brand,” Donaldson says. He started doing some research and eventually connected with Richardson andWJ Partners. “We were just smitten. We were very pleased with the culture, with the brand, and the great opportu nities,” he adds. So last summer, Donaldson, along with his brother and son, signed a deal to develop 30 Eggs Up Grill locations in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth market. The first Texas store, slated to open early this year in Carrollton, clocks in just shy of 8,000 square feet and includes a training kitchen that will be used for onboarding as more locations open.
Mimosas Great American
Cheeseburger & Fries
EGGS UP GRILL (3)
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