Whether you call it luxury QSR, fast-fast casual, super-premium fast food or some other term, the bottom line is that there is an increasing trend across the fast food sector to up the ante on quality while cutting delivery time through the use of ordering technologies that are rapidly making waiting in line "so 20th century."
This month will see the opening of the first location in a new chain that represents what its founders say is the first brand with national aspirations to enter the high-speed, high-quality ingredient category. To better understand how the Starbird brand came about, we asked founder Aaron Noveshen a few questions about the concept that he calls "super-premium fast food":
Q: What kind of research was involved in this concept and how long did it take to launch?
A: We've been at work on Starbird since 2014. Starbird is the first restaurant developed by The Culinary Edge Ventures, whose mission is [to] create modern, dynamic restaurant concepts that revolutionize tired segments of the restaurant industry. TCEV initially created close to half a dozen restaurant prototypes across multiple restaurant segments before landing on Starbird for its scalability, simplicity, universal appeal and interest with investors. …
With Starbird, our goal is to create the best possible fast food experience, and reposition the term "fast food" to breed positivity and joy. In doing so we did extensive research into every aspect of the restaurant experience from the menu to the experience to the operations and to the technology. After two years of iterating, prototyping, tinkering and testing, we are so excited to bring Starbird to the public. …
We researched the entire fast food landscape, iterating on every which way to reimagine fast food, to improve upon the good parts and fix the bad parts. We taste-tested over 100 chicken recipes. We also did extensive research around new technologies to leverage to optimize the modern drive-thru experience. We interviewed potential guests, and we spent months crafting our brand story.
Q: What's your growth plan and when is the official opening of the first site?
A: We will officially open our first location in Sunnyvale, California on June 15. Our second location in Foster City, California is slated to open in the winter of this year. We are already looking at real estate for new locations with the goal of growing in the Bay Area before moving on to additional regions.
Q: Why is a training model with one-on-one coaching so integral to the brand?
A:Part of reimagining fast food means redefining the work culture and making the experience for employees one that is positive, joyous and creates a path to better futures and opportunities in the restaurant industry. We want Starbird to reframe the conversation about what it means to "work in fast food," and create a new dialogue. With Starbird, we are passionate about investing in our employees, taking the time to focus on training and best practices so that our employees feel the respect that they deserve, are empowered to perform better and understand that there are opportunities to grow within our organization. Genuinely happy employees will translate to creating happiness for our guests.
Q: Why the emphasis on sustainably amd locally sourced ingredients, and can you maintain that as the chain grows?
A:We have formed relationships with many local food suppliers, notably Petaluma Poultry for our chicken. We spent months crafting these relationships with the intention of leveraging them across our future Bay Area locations. When we expand outside of the Bay Area, forming meaningful relationships with new, local suppliers will be a key element of the development process.
Q: Do you have any other similar concepts in the hopper?
A: The Culinary Edge Ventures does have another concept in [research and development] stages. But at this time our goal is to focus on launching and growing Starbird, proving out our first concept, and launching additional locations before we move to launching an entirely new restaurant.
In the final part of this series tomorrow, a closer look at some of the imaginative vendors supplying products to power the trend toward higher-end ingredients across restaurant sectors.