Chef Chatter: Why transparency matters in the fast casual industry
By Alex Ferreira, chef and general manager, Silva’s Fresh Eatery & Churrascaria
Walk-through style fast casuals are not necessarily a new idea; there are hot concepts around the country and here in my area of Southern California — think Urban Plates, Lemonade, Chipotle, etc. — that utilize some form this model and have found an impressive amount of success. With the recent rise of modern fine casual design and experiences, combined with a desire for better quality food at all levels, it’s no wonder there has been pressure on most restaurants to up their games.
There are some great reasons why the walk-through setup is resonating with foodies and restaurateurs alike, and it’s the transparency of the experience that has undoubtedly raised expectations and guest excitement across the board.
My restaurant, Silva’s Fresh Eatery & Churrascaria, is a fine casual concept that thrives off this exact model — giving guests a fresh, robust selection of modern Brazilian and international cuisine, combined with an efficient, educational experience on delicately sliced meats (churrasco) provided by our team.
Similar to a Chipotle, Blaze Pizza or Urban Plates experiences, guests walk through our chef’s table to build their perfect meals with no surprises. Those who visit us are expecting to see their favorite items along with some seasonal creations, and everyone from the servers to the general manager is eager to work directly with the guests to quickly answer any questions.
Modern-day restaurant transparency is paramount to this experience, which is why it’s one of our top priorities in all aspects of operating a business, including selection, accessibility and quality.
Guests love variety, and often it can be overwhelming to skim through a classic, overfilled restaurant menu when hunger is on the mind. With modern fast casual concepts with walk-through service, guests can easily view freshly made food and interact with servers and chefs to pick out their perfect meal. The guesswork is removed when the meal is in front of them, and the experience is elevated with more interaction and even socializing with others in line.
Just as employees love an open-door policy, restaurants thrive when all levels of a team are there for the guests. At many traditional restaurants, one may never see a manager and have limited access to their server. Today’s most popular concepts embrace full access to team members and being able to ask more questions before the meal usually results in happier guests and more positive reviews.
We all embrace the elements of sight, smell and taste. A great fast casual provides maximum access for all three, giving the guest an immediate chance to see and smell the incredible food as it is prepared. The guest experience can be elevated with free samples of the latest offerings, and watching others in line make menu selections can help influence their perception of the restaurant. It is also important to be honest about where the ingredients are sourced. Are the vegetables local? Are the meats organic and free of antibiotics? Being able to see so much of the restaurants’ food overall can remove any doubts of meal quality and helps visitors make quicker decisions, boosting the efficiency of the team.
There’s a direct association between the senses and emotional connection to a brand. Those who had a great experience at a restaurant will remember how the location, food and team members made them feel. They’ll share those feelings and experiences with friends and family. And that is the best way for any brand to earn a great reputation that will continue to spread via word of mouth and social media.
Republished with permission from FastCasual.