Blog Network

jCarbonara
Joe Carbonara

Excellence in Experience

In addition to projecting slow but real growth for the foodservice industry in 2018, The NPD Group outlined a handful of attributes that will affect the way consumers use foodservice. Specifically, NPD predicts consumers will remain strapped for time, embrace digital ordering even more and strive to develop a closer relationship with their couches.

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jMartinez
Juan Martinez

Eye on Efficiency

If your new year’s resolution has fallen by the wayside not that the calendar has turned to February, never fear. It is always a good time to explore new experiences and new opportunities to make a difference in the foodservice industry.

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jStiegler
Jerry Stiegler

Restaurant Sales Flat in January, Sales Growth Among Largest Chains Slowed, and the Number of U.S. Restaurants Dipped

U.S. retail sales declined in January while restaurant sales were flat. Rising government price indexes raise fears of higher inflation and interest rates. Technomic reports sales growth among the 500 largest restaurant chains slowed for the second consecutive year. The number of restaurants in the U.S. declined last year. These stories and whole lot more This Week in Foodservice.

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Walk in to a FREEBIRDS World Burrito for the first time and you just might be hit with sensory overload. The concept, founded in 1987 and acquired by the Tavistock Restaurant Group in 2007, is all about providing a way-different sort of fast-casual dining experience.

FreebirdsFrom the '60s and '70s music and peace, love and burritos slogans on the walls to the uniform-free staffers to the burrito-gripping Statue of Liberty replica astride a Harley Davidson in every store — FREEBIRDS aims for laidback eccentricity.

It's an attitude and ambiance that resonates with Baby Boomers and youngsters alike, says Jeff Carl, chief marketing officer, and that's part of how FREEBIRDS differentiates itself from the fast-casual burrito segment giants. More importantly, Carl says, is food quality and variety. FREEBIRDS preps everything fresh on-site: slow-roasting its carnitas and marinating its grass-fed beef and all-natural hormone-free chicken; making all sauces and salsas; and fire-grilling fresh ears of corn for its corn salsa. Freedom of choice is big; four different tortilla flavors are offered: spinach, cayenne, wheat and flour as are eight sauces and salsas, from "bad ass barbecue" to pico de gallo to "death" sauce. More than 15 additional toppings fill out the 30-ft. service line, which Carl describes as "Chipotle on steroids."

Service is distinctive, too. "When you enter the service queue, a 'roller' [crew member] helps you through the entire process, describing ingredients, suggesting great flavor combinations and building your perfectly customized burrito. You don't get handed off down a line of scoopers and ploppers. You get a custom tailored, fun experience. That's not normal!"

Fast Facts

  • Year founded: 2003
  • Headquarters: Emeryville, Calif.
  • Menu specialties: Gourmet burritos
  • Service model: Fast-casual
  • Ownership: The Tavistock Group's Tavistock Restaurants Division
  • Units: 48 (all company owned, franchising starting this summer)
  • Projected 2011 growth: Number of units expected to increase by 50 percent
  • Key expansion markets: Texas, Oklahoma, California
  • Typical location: End cap
  • Average unit size: 2,000–2,800 sq. ft.
  • Average kitchen space: 900–1,100 sq. ft.
  • Average check: $10
  • Total equipment investment per unit: $100,000+
Key Players
  • President: Bryan Lockwood
  • Vice President, Culinary & Purchasing: Steve Byrne
  • Vice President, Development: Mike Lingor
  • Chief Marketing Officer: Jeff Carl
  • Smallwares & Equipment: Edward Don
  • Food Distributor: U.S. Foodservice
  • Architect: CMS New York
  • Key Consultant: Duke Marketing

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