“Improved fast-food chains” that serve quick, healthful fare seem to be popping up everywhere.
And millennials, especially, are taking notice — McDonald’s recently fell out of the demographic’s top 10 favourite restaurant chains.
Consumers at these “improved” chains should still watch for out for calorie-heavy items like salad dressings and sauces. But these eateries keep emphasis on “fresh” over “fried” and still get food out the door fast.
Here are 10 quickly growing “improved” fast-food restaurants that are a hit with diners.
What they serve: Soups, burritos, salads and wraps. Meals can be customised with a variety of meats and toppings.
Location: Restaurants in 35 cities in eight countries, including the U.S. and Canada.
The story: Founder Matthew Corrin was a marketing manager for Oscar de la Renta before joining the dining industry. The store was founded in 2005 in Toronto.
Review: 'If the concept is a little less fresh than it used to be, that's not a bad thing. We have eaten a lot of kebabs and pizza in the pursuit of good takeout. The arrival of fresh fast food couldn't have happened soon enough.' -- The Washington Post
What they serve: Vegetarian pita pockets and salads with falafel and hummus. Customers can choose toppings and sauces from a self-serve salad bar.
Location: Six restaurants in the U.S. and five overseas.
The story: Maoz was founded in Amsterdam in 1991. The restaurant's mantra is quick, vegetarian food.
Review: 'The sauces have character, particularly the green chilli and garlic, which make great dips for a menu item that's a clue to Maoz's Northern European roots: perfectly crisp (if a bit too thick-cut) Belgian fries.' -- New York Times
What they serve: An array of plant-based salads, sandwiches, soups and sides. Burgers -- which are all vegetarian -- are served on a wheat bun or bed of steamed kale.
Locations: The chain has about 20 restaurants throughout California, Oregon and Washington.
The story: The first restaurant opened in 2006 in California. Patch billed the chain 'a meat-eater's vegan restaurant' for its inventive take on meatless dishes.
Review: 'While uttering the V-word could send many a diner running scared for the nearest burger joint, the Veggie Grill makes a vegetable-based diet accessible, and more importantly, delicious.' -- West Hollywood Patch
What they serve: Salads are the main focus, but they offer sandwiches as well. Get a pre-made recipe or make your own, and choose one of 20-plus dressings.
Location: Restaurants are scattered around New York City and Washington D.C.
The story: The chain was founded by two college friends who had faith in the chopped salad trend in 2001. The two did research and development on dozens of dressing recipes before setting up shop.
Review: 'Someone somewhere figured out that Americans love salads and that a salads-only restaurant would be a winner. Hence: Chop't---and in DC's Chinatown-Penn Quarter district, it's jam-packed at all hours.' -- Gayot
What they serve: The restaurant is open for all three meals and serves up dishes like portobella pasta, fish tacos and quinoa crunch wraps. They also offer catering and grocery store items.
Location: So far, the restaurant only has two locations in California. But its grocery line is available in dozens of locations nationwide.
The story: The restaurant's name stands for Love Your Food Everyday. A former McDonald's executive is one of the chain's two presidents, and a former personal chef to Oprah is also on staff.
Review: 'While not everything works, Lyfe, which stands for 'love your food every day,' for the most part serves up reasonably priced, healthful food. If I lived next door, I'd be there often.' -- San Francisco Chronicle
What they serve: The restaurant has a focus on locally-sourced food. Its menu items, all about $11, include chipotle barbecue chicken and tuna nicoise salad.
Locations: Tender Greens has nine locations, exclusively in California.
The story: Erik Oberholtzer and David Dressler founded the restaurant in 2006. Each restaurant has local specials created by its chefs and there are plans to expand to 30 locations in the next decade.
Review: 'Really, there are no wrong choices here. Nor, realistically speaking, are there enough days in the year to sample everything.' -- San Jose Mercury News
What they serve: Just salad serves just that -- salad. The menu has Mediterranean- and Asian-inspired offerings, among others.
Locations: There are 10 spots in New York City, as well as Hong Kong and Singapore locations.
The story: Nick Kenner founded the first Just Salad in Manhattan in 2006. The chain also has a chef/dietitian on staff who creates the menu.
Review: 'I'm a bit obsessed about this place and annoyed why I didn't find out about Just Salad sooner. I'm also a bit surprised on the volume of mixed greens I can down in one meal.' -- Yelp
What they serve: The restaurant has a Mediterranean-themed menu. Options include Greek salad, spinach roll-ups and protein power plate.
Locations: The restaurant is scattered throughout 15 states, mainly in the southern U.S.
The story: The restaurant's namesake, Zoë Cassimus, founded Zoës Kitchen to bring simple, fresh recipes from her Greek heritage to the public. The website describes the menu as 'Mediterranean-inspired comfort food.'
Review: 'Don't bother looking for burgers and fries -- nothing is fried at Zoës. The restaurant serves an interesting variety of menu items, both traditional as well as exotic.' -- Your Houston News
What they serve: Salad is the focus. There's also sandwiches and soups available.
Locations: The chain is solely in Michigan for the time being, with locations around metro Detroit.
The story: John. A. Bornoty launched the business in 2008. According to Fox News, the restaurant plans to open 200 more locations in the next 10 years.
Review: 'I dropped into the new Novi restaurant last Saturday for lunch and was pleased with the number and freshness of salad ingredients. The build-your-own salads come in two sizes -- Big with up to seven toppings ($8.95), and Baby Big with up to four toppings ($6.95). I ordered a Big, which was so large I took half of it home for a second meal.' -- Detroit Free Press
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