After all, who’s not at least a little bit intrigued to see where they rank?
But the true value of the publication – which was just released – lies in gaining from it a better understanding of market-changing trends and the best practices employed by the industry’s top brands and pioneering executives.
This year’s edition, sponsored by Oracle Food and Beverage, is no exception. And what becomes apparent as you read the summaries for each of the top 75 restaurants and top 25 executives is their big appetite for innovative technology – anchored by point of sale systems – that drives growth by catering to customer needs.
Let’s take a look at three top topics that have the undivided attention of leading brands and executives:
1.Restaurant online ordering is a big focus
It’s a focal point for many of the top brands. In fact, in its profiles of 6 of the top 10 brands, Fast Casual specifically highlights their online ordering initiatives – most of which involve the use of mobile apps. These apps typically offer the convenience of easy payment and sometimes include digital rewards. Others are even experimenting with online ordering portals for individual meals and catering. Mobile apps also are the gateway to third-party ordering services such as Uber Eats and Doordash. Though some restaurateurs begrudge revenue sharing with third-party ordering services, the best recognize their growing presence in the marketplace and are exploring ways to better work with them.
2. Making restaurant loyalty simple, relevant and bonding
Like many of his peers, Chris Fuqua is focusing on loyalty apps. But the CEO of B.Good, which features burgers, bowls, salads and smoothies, is making loyalty an extension of his brand’s identity. B.Good grows its own food on a farm and donates some of its yield to various partners, including a Boston-based, non-profit camp that serves at-risk youth. Fuqua told Fast Casual: “With the launch of B.Good rewards and our new app, we’re delivering a frictionless guest experience that fits into customers’ busy lives, while also offering them rewards they can feel good about.”
3. Healthy eating – and transparency – continue to gain momentum
Fast Casual points out that restaurant concepts featuring healthy cuisine fared well in this year’s Top 100 list: 17 of the top 25 fall in this category. Such a showing supports a 2018 Technomic research report, which documented how health factors are influencing consumers’ ordering decisions. According to the Technomic study, 66% of consumers looked for calorie counts on restaurant menus at least some of the time, and 34% said they’d be likely to order dishes made with vegetables.
That’s why many top brands cite transparency as a key to success and turn to technology to achieve it: Equipping restaurant staff with tablets, for example, is a way to deliver nutrition information and other important details about menu items to guests – enhancing and expanding service to new levels.
Gaining such an advantage will be important, according to Maia Change, a senior research analyst at Technomic, who told Fast Casual: “The foodservice landscape will become more competitive when it comes to tastier, more innovative healthy menu offerings. This means that more brands will face additional pressure to differentiate through transparency and preparation techniques, as well as brand and sourcing stories.”
What else should restaurateurs focus on for tomorrow?
Keeping tabs on Geoff Alexander, CEO of Wow Bao, might be a good idea. He was a pioneer in altering the way diners experience the restaurant environment by being an early adopter of self-service kiosks. Recently, Alexander fully automated the front-of-house experience at Wow Bao. He cites his restaurant’s rapid growth as validation of his technology-first strategy and told Fast Casual: “Was the world ready for Facebook? Shopping on Amazon? It’s the same thing in restaurants. Hospitality is evolving.”
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