Chicken wings are growing ever-more popular and showing up on the menu at unexpected eateries including sandwich and burger chain Veggie Grill and Mexican-themed Taco John's. About 36% of the top 500 concepts now boast wings, according to Technomic. "People are very passionate about their wings, about how they’re cooked, and what flavors they are," said Wing Zone CEO Matt Friedman.
The fast-casual segment of the restaurant industry grew 20.8% last year, driven in large part by consumers who are also heavy users and influencers on social media, according to DigitalCoCo's Fast Casual Social 100 report, presented in this video and infographic. Super Users average 5.4 monthly visits to fast-casual restaurants, up from 3.1 visits during the same period last year, writes author and agency founder Paul Barron.
Red Lobster parent Darden Restaurants expects to open about 500 new eateries in the next five years, and each location will employ about 100 people for a total of 50,000 new jobs, CEO Clarence Otis Jr. said in a presentation this week. Darden currently employs about 185,000 people at its 2,000 restaurants and Orlando, Fla., headquarters.
Pizza Hut is moving ahead with a store prototype that's about half the size of its earlier units, with about 300 of them up and running since the new model was launched three years ago. The Delco Lite models, short for "delivery and carry out," feature a more contemporary design and are faster and less costly for franchisees to build.
New York City residents are dining out just as often as they did last year, but they're spending less per meal, according to a new Zagat survey. The average check dropped 10%, and the majority of new eateries opening in the past year were more casual and less pricey, the survey found.