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BREAKOUT SESSION / TUESDAY / OCTOBER 15, 2019 / 11:25 AM

What the Heck Does ‘Fast Casual’ Mean These Days, and Does it Even Matter?

When the term “fast casual” emerged more than 20 years ago, it was used to describe a restaurant brand that offered higher-quality food in a more upscale setting but didn’t use servers. As the popularity of “fast casual” concepts increased over the years, other sectors, including casual dining and QSRs, have changed everything from their menus to service models in an effort to stay competitive.

Today, the line is blurry, but does it even matter to customers?

PANELISTS

Alonso Castañeda | VP of Brand Development & Strategy | Four Foods Group

Alonso Castañeda’s professional career began as a General Manager for Qdoba Mexica Grill in Colorado and he excelled in the business quickly and passionately. Since then he has worked as a Director of Franchise Operations, Regional Manager, Director of F&B, Director of Sales and Store compliance and currently Vice President of Brand Development and Strategy for the Four Foods Group Brands. He received the RevGen award from Mercato Partners in 2017 for top revenue generator in the FFG Brands. He has worked with great companies such as Qdoba, Paradise Bakery, Panera Bread, Café Rio, Kneaders Bakery & Café, R & R BBQ and Mo’Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food.

Akash Kapoor | Founder & CEO | Curry Up Now

Curry Up Now founder Akash Kapoor has been a self-employed entrepreneur and businessman since childhood. His first business dates back to grade school movie nights, where he set up a food stand, and has successfully grown a variety of businesses, from credit card marketing to mortgage banking to debt and tax mediation. In 2009, he left the traditional business world to start Curry Up Now with his wife, Rana. Curry Up Now was the first Indian street food truck in the Bay Area, and has since grown to include three food trucks, two craft cocktail bar concepts, and six brick-and-mortar locations, with dozens planned in markets nationwide.

Jim Vinz | CEO | Mongolian Concepts

Jim Vinz is CEO of Mongolian Concepts, the nation’s largest ‘Create Your Own’ Stir Fry company, where he is leading re-invigoration, reimaging and growth of the Genghis Grill, bd’s Mongolian Grill and Flat Top Grill brands. Jim was an early pioneer in the Fast Casual segment in leading the growth of Corner Bakery Café for over 16 years from small bakery in downtown Chicago to a nationwide brand in over 25 states. During his leadership, Corner Bakery developed and grew its industry leading catering program, evolved the service model and launched their franchise program. Jim has also led other fast casual brands, including la Madeleine Country French Café, Brioche Doree and Bruegger’s Bagels.

Steve Schulze | Co-Founder & CEO | Nékter Juice Bar

Steve Schulze is co-founder and CEO of Nékter Juice Bar. Leveraging personal savings and an SBA loan, Steve and his wife Alexis have built the company in seven years into a predominant restaurant and lifestyle brand, offering fresh, clean, nutritious juices, smoothies and acai bowls made without processed ingredients, artificial flavors, added sugars, or unnecessary fillers. With more than 80 locations in six states, over 900 employees and nearly $50 million in annual revenue, Nékter is expanding nationally through corporate and franchise growth with plans to grow to 425 restaurants by 2020. Prior to launching Nékter, Steve worked for consumer-based companies in various sales, marketing and management capacities.

MODERATOR

Zach Goldstein | Founder & CEO | Thanx

Zach Goldstein is a die-hard Sacramento Kings fan; it was through many losing seasons where he first learned the value of loyalty. He founded Thanx in 2011 with the goal of helping merchants identify, reward and retain their best customers / die-hard fans. Previously, Zach worked with retail and tech giants at Bain and Company, where he focused on customer satisfaction and retention. He received his MBA from Stanford and shivered his way to a BA at Dartmouth.

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