George Green is vice president at Nashville’s Bread & Co., a fast-casual chain that focuses on top-quality food. Green is also on the Steering Committee of the National Restaurant Association’s Fast Casual Industry Council and a Fast Casual columnist for QSRmagazine.com. We reached out to Green to get his thoughts on the state of fast-casual restaurants and learn some details about how Bread & Co. is handling current and upcoming trends.
What sets Bread & Co. apart from other fast-casual restaurants?
Our fanatical commitment to providing the highest quality food. We provide many products than any of our customers (Sandwiches, Salads, etc.) can make at home at a lower cost, but they honor us each day with their business because they know we care about what we put on their plates.
What lessons has your company learned since the economic downturn? Has the focus changed?
We have held our ground and maintained our focus. Bread & Co. makes a premium product which is a great value. We have resisted the urge to discount because we thought it would hurt the brand in the long run. Of course, it was a big surprise when even upper-income customers substantially cut back their spending for one of the first times since the Great Depression.
How is the chain handling the movement toward healthier menu items and nutritional data disclosure?
We keep our product as pure as possible and don’t serve junk. We have always had a number of healthy options on the menu and will continue to add more. As someone who has lost 25 pounds in the last six months, I am proof of that. Although we have only four stores, we will follow the new federal disclosure laws.
What are the top three trends the fast-casual segment should be preparing for?
The enormous growth in the fast-casual segment came about as a result of the growth in luxury spending over the last two decades. Operators should watch whether the new normal of lower consumer spending continues. Our industry also needs to stick together to fight the politicians who want to make life more difficult for those who put their capital at risk in our low margin industry. It is vital that every operator should join the National Restaurant Association so that we have a unified voice.
Do fast-casual restaurants have opportunities to engage consumers in ways that quickservice restaurants can’t?
Quickservice restaurants are ruled by the tyranny of the drive up where everything has to happen in 90 seconds. Fast-casual customers want a great product in a comfortable environment where they can relax and are more willing to interact. Fast-casual operators build relationships while QSR restaurants focus on transactions.
How has your fast-casual restaurant responded to the economic changes?
Image via Bread & Co.’s Facebook page