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QSR Uncut: A Fast-Food Restaurant Podcast from QSR Magazine
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QSR Uncut: A Fast-Food Restaurant Podcast from QSR Magazine

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QSR Uncut is a podcast from the editors of QSR magazine—the leading publication for foodservice owners and operators—that discusses the current state and future of the fast-food restaurant industry as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Made for restaurant executives, entrepreneurs, consumers, and leaders, each episode candidly answers three questions from readers. We'll also check out the best of fast-food Twitter each week and chat with some of the industry's most insightful leaders.
140 Episodes
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On a special Thanksgiving week episode of QSR uncut, the team chats with Smashburger president Carl Bachmann for an inside look at what’s made the fast casual thrive over the years and during COVID-19, from menu innovation to technology to store design, and more. Also, what Thanksgiving foods are overrated, and what’s the best way to cook a turkey? Let's dive in.
As restaurants rebound from the pandemic, the opportunity to lean on customer data has never been greater. But how do you listen, and what really matters? Nihal Advani, CEO and founder of QualSights, joins the QSR team to talk about the future of foodservice, and why reviews don't begin and end with Yelp.
QSR editor Danny Klein catches up with industry innovator and change-marker Alex Canter, the CEO of Nextbite, to chat about all things virtual brands, and why COVID ushered in a digital era for restaurants that's just getting started.
A&W CEO Kevin Bazner discusses the biggest crisis facing restaurants today—where to find labor and how to keep employees from leaving.  Also, cheese curds, the brand's famous root beer, and how the 102-year-old chain charted one of the most impressive turnarounds in fast-food history.
OneDine CEO and industry thought leader Rom Krupp joins the QSR magazine team this week to talk all things digital, and how COVID-19 ushered in a decade of innovation in 19 months. From QR codes  to the real dangers of third-party delivery to a rash of IPOs,  we take an unscripted look at the hottest topic in the restaurant industry's evolution today. Plus, Wendy's is roasting McDonald's (again).
In this week’s episode of QSR Uncut,  QSR magazine editors Danny Klein and Ben Coley are joined by Joseph Szala, managing director of Vigor and author and marketing expert, to talk about everything from virtual restaurants—are there too many?—to brand relevance, marketing to employees amid a labor shortage, the return of the McRib, Golden Corral, Jersey Mike's, and Portillo's, and whether or not tater tots should be considered French fries (they shouldn’t). We answer reader’s questions, share some of the best fast-food deals from the week, and scroll through social media to find the craziest tweets.
In the first edition of QSR Uncut, editors Danny Klein and Ben Coley discuss how Chick-fil-A could be the "slowest drive-thru in America," and yet also be the fastest. And Wendy's roasts McDonald's on Twitter yet again. Plus, Chipotle has some wild ideas about how to make ranch dressing.
Everything restaurants have been forced to go through in the last year has been unprecedented. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a crisis like no other for restaurants. There hasn’t been a playbook. But there have been some companies that have been better prepared for crises than others.Just look at Whataburger. This is a company whose restaurants are primarily based in the South, and which has been forced to deal with hurricane and storm damage to its restaurants seemingly every year. Even just this year, a huge chunk of Whataburger’s restaurants had to deal with the snow storm that paralyzed Texas for a week in February. But Whataburger has rolled with every punch and survived every hurricane, every snow storm, and now every pandemic, all thanks to its company culture, which its leaders describe as being very much like a family. Pam Nemec, Whataburger's senior vice president of HR and brand culture, and Jeff North, the senior vice president of restaurant segment support, join the podcast to talk about Whataburger’s hiring, training, and people development practices, and how they come together in this family-style culture. Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
Chicken-finger brand Raising Cane's lost 30 percent of its sales in the weeks following stay-at-home orders last March, but by the end of 2020, it was clearing its original sales expectations by 10 percent. How did it do it? Drive thrus helped a lot, but the company's culture was mostly to thank. That culture is something founder Todd Graves has been working on since he opened the first location in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1996, and it helped the company clock in at No. 89 in Glassdoor’s most recent “Best Places to Work” list. Graves and co-CEO AJ Kumaran join the podcast to talk about how Cane’s culture comes alive in its stores, how the corporate team has invested deeply in its Restaurant Leaders, and how all of this served the brand well in the pandemic.  Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
If you were to point to some of the biggest trends in the pre-pandemic foodservice world, health-oriented concepts would have to be in the top five. Especially in the fast-casual category, there was a lot of momentum for salad and bowl concepts that were geared toward that healthy, active lifestyle. When COVID showed up, though, some wondered if the momentum for that category had hit a wall. But that’s not really been the case—at least not for Crisp & Green. In fact, founder Steele Smiley says the pandemic could be the “single best thing that ever happened to this company.” Indeed, COVID-19 gave Crisp & Green an opportunity to add some muscle, and it's accelerating from eight stores today to around 40 by the end of 2021.Smiley joins the podcast to talk about how Crisp & Green will capitalize on a coming health food boom, why community is key to the success of healthy restaurant brands like Crisp & Green, and how COVID has changed the health food movement going forward. This episode is brought to you by Blount Fine Foods.Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
The buy-one-give-one model became popular in the last 10–15 years, with businesses like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker donating a product to those in need for every transaction they made. That’s exactly what Tacos 4 Life is doing with tacos, as founders Austin and Ashton Samuelson committed to donating the funds necessary to purchase one meal to the organization Feed My Starving Children for every taco they sell.That mission was sailing along until last March, when COVID arrived. And like every other restaurant in America, Tacos 4 Life was staring down some very difficult realities in its business, forced to adapt to an off-premises-oriented world. But one thing never wavered: the brand’s commitment to its mission. Austin Samuelson joins the podcast to talk about how Tacos 4 Life has built a successful for-profit business with a charitable mission at its core, how that mission was protected from the worst of the pandemic, and how the brand plans to build upon what it’s learned this year in its efforts to fight childhood hunger globally. Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
While most quick serves and fast casuals had a huge advantage in quickly recovering from the sales drop of last March, there is a whole subset of fast casuals that, even if they were in tune with digital and off-premises trends, took much longer to recover. Those are the fast casuals in more urban areas or business districts, brands that might have done 80 percent or more of their sales at the lunch daypart and had a massive catering business serving the workers of downtown Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, or other major cities. Fields Good Chicken is one such fast casual that was at the mercy of the shuttered office spaces and the quick pivot to remote work. Founded by Field Failing in 2014, this wholesome chicken brand had grown to six New York City locations before the pandemic, and was geared toward that Manhattan office lunch crowd that completely evaporated last March. But Fields Good Chicken didn’t give up—and it didn’t let a good opportunity go to waste. Failing joins the podcast to talk about how the brand spent this season finding efficiencies in the operation, why it decided to pare back its menu, and how the evolution of the restaurant industry reminds him of the e-commerce revolution of the early 2000s. This episode is brought to you by Lamb Weston.Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced restaurants to rethink how they get their food into customers' hands, and technology has allowed them to get really creative with service. That's led to a real opportunity for restaurants of all service models to innovate—which is exactly what McAlister’s Deli is doing. Prior to the pandemic, McAlister's was doing dine-in, carryout, and third-party delivery model, while also testing curbside. After the pandemic, though, it’s expanded those service channels to include direct delivery, system-wide curbside, and even tableside delivery. It's managed all of this with a robust digital evolution, one that has led its digital sales to more than double in the last year and its loyalty program to grow seven-fold. McAlister's president Joe Guith joins the podcast to talk about how the new service formats have changed McAlister’s growth trajectory, how the brand has found efficiencies in its model, and how it plans to become the next billion-dollar brand. This episode is brought to you by Lamb Weston.Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
In the five or six years prior to the pandemic, big-box fast casuals sprung up around the U.S. offering a high-quality experience meant to be enjoyed on-site. These kinds of restaurants were hit particularly hard by COVID-19, as they didn’t have the off-premises mechanisms that helped more traditional fast casuals turn things around last year. Hopdoddy is one of these so-called fast casual 2.0 brands with big footprints and comfortable seating, a laid-back experience that is best enjoyed in the restaurants; the brand was only doing about 12 percent of sales off-premises prior to the pandemic. CEO Jeff Chandler joins the podcast to talk about how Hopdoddy was able to quickly prop up an off-premises operation designed primarily around curbside service, how its digital transformation has had a ripple effect throughout the Hopdoddy system, and why the brand still plans to keep that same great on-site experience going forward.This episode is brought to you by Blount Fine Foods.Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
If you’re a restaurant industry professional, chances are your path to where you are today has included a lot of hustle, a lot of putting your head down and grinding out the job that needs to get done. You probably didn’t have a clearly articulated career ladder to climb or the attention of someone higher up who took you under their wing and taught you how things were supposed to be done.That’s because this rarely exists in the restaurant industry, outside maybe the major corporations. And that’s a problem that Sanjiv Razdan wants to fix. The president of Americas & India at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf last year launched GLEAM Network, a nonprofit, volunteer-based network that offers mentorship opportunities for restaurant professionals. Razdan joins the podcast to talk about why mentorship is so important for the industry, how hundreds of professionals have already leveraged GLEAM, and why the pandemic is providing a "school of hard knocks" for restaurant entrepreneurs. If you're interested in getting involved with GLEAM, visit gleamnetwork.net. Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on life, to reassess what we’re doing and where we're going. That's been very true of restaurant companies, which have taken the opportunity to think more about their operations, their service, their menu, and their plans for the future, and for many, to use that reflection to reimagine their business model.Smashburger is one of those companies that has undergone a transformation in the last year, one particularly focused on digital tools. President Carl Bachmann joins the podcast to talk about Smashburger’s digital transformation, how drive thrus and curbside cubbies factor into its new business model, and how a planned hub-and-spoke model will help it score new real estate that it previously couldn’t access. This episode is brought to you by Blount Fine Foods.Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
COVID-19 is likely to give a jolt to the franchise world. Just like in the Great Recession, there will probably be a surge in people looking for a new career, driving demand for franchises sky high. And many franchisors are able to provide support and resources to their franchisees in times of crisis, making franchises a safer bet for those looking to jump into entrepreneurialism.Scott Greenberg is a franchising expert and author of the new book, “The Wealthy Franchisee: Game-Changing Steps to Becoming a Thriving Franchise Superstar." He joins the podcast to talk about this expected boom in franchising, as well as steps that quick service restaurant franchisees can take to improve their culture, increase their productivity, and make smarter business decisions. For more information on Scott and "The Wealthy Franchisee," visit ScottGreenberg.com Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
Remember the chicken sandwich wars that launched with Popeyes’ new sandwich? Way back in 2019? We all called it a war but really, as with most marketing initiatives, it was mostly just tongue-in-cheek barbs and playful quips that brands slung at each other via social media. That playfulness disappeared in the early days of the pandemic as restaurant brands scrambled to come across as trustworthy and transparent. And while that playfulness has since returned to restaurant marketing, it's no doubt changed because of how brands have been forced to communicate for the last year. Church's Chicken CMO Brian Gies joins the podcast to talk about those changes, how he adapted the brand's messaging throughout the pandemic, and, yes, how Church's introduced its own product to the ongoing chicken sandwich wars.Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
Just a few years ago, food halls were christened as the next big thing in foodservice. Like food trucks, every city had to have one and consumers had to be seen eating at one. Unfortunately for food halls, the COVID-19 pandemic was kind of like the anti-food hall; food halls are all about socialization, which is exactly what we lost with COVID.Reed Allen Slobusky had opened a food hall, Hall Pass in Salt Lake City, just before COVID-19 hit. But Slobusky—the founder of seven-unit fast casual SkinnyFats, which is one of the Hall Pass vendors—found a way to adapt the hall to the pandemic's new realities, and has even found a way to leverage Hall Pass as a sort of test kitchen for SkinnyFats and other concepts.Slobusky joins the podcast to talk about Hall Pass, his partnership on the business with chef Marc Marrone, and why even in an age of the off-premises boom he's determined to create a foodservice business that customers have to experience for themselves. Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
COVID-19 has affected limited- and full-service restaurants in totally different ways, with staggering implications for the future of the industry. Nobody knows this quite like Sam Fox. The founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts has developed both casual and fast-casual concepts,  giving him a unique window into how the pandemic has altered service and hospitality for the future.Fox joins the podcast to discuss his entry into the ghost-kitchen space with Fly Bye. He also talks about how he’s had to adjust his casual concepts around COVID-19, what lessons he’s learned from his work in fast casual, and why he thinks hospitality through brick-and-mortar restaurants is still the heart and soul of the restaurant industry.  This episode is brought to you by Perdue Foodservice.Read more about Fox's efforts at FSRmagazine.com. Subscribe to QSR at QSRmagazine.com/subscribeQSR Magazine informationFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedInQSRmagazine.com Have feedback or interview suggestions? Email us at sam@qsrmagazine.com.
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