Plano, Texas-based Zoe’s Kitchen Inc., which offers a healthful Mediterranean menu, rose to No. 3 in the Latest Year in terms of systemwide sales growth, from No. 4 in the Preceding Year. The fast-casual operator showed 40.7-percent growth in sales in the Latest Year compared with the Preceding Year.
The menu at Zoës Kitchen ranges from a variety of hummus flavors and chicken-orzo soup, to such entrées as Mediterranean Chicken, roll-ups, sandwiches and kebabs. The lineup incorporates recipes from matriarch Zoë Cassimus.
In the Second 100 ranking, Zoës Kitchen tied with The Habit Burger Grill to share the No. 4 spot in growth of U.S. units. Zoës Kitchen added 30 units in its 2014 fiscal year, a 29.4-percent increase in the Latest Year over the Preceding Year. U.S. systemwide foodservice sales were $180.8 million in the Latest Year, rising from $128.5 million in the Preceding year.
Zoës Kitchen turns 20 this year, and opened its first unit in Homewood, Ala.
Keys to growth
Going public. In April 2014, Zoe’s Kitchen Inc. made its initial public offering, with the intent to finance further growth. Its share price rose about 65 percent in its first day of trading. The company had 114 restaurants on the day of the IPO. It ended the year with 139 restaurants.
Emphasizing dinner. Zoe’s Kitchen officials have targeted a 50-50 split between the lunch and dinner dayparts in an effort to capitalize on late-day business, which hasn’t been a strong suit for fast-casual concepts. Zoe’s Kitchen’s current daypart split is about 60 percent lunch. The company said it would add some dinner menu items, and also focus on takeaway meals for family dinners to achieve its goal.
New markets. Zoës Kitchen opened its first restaurant in Missouri in 2015, after investing in existing markets in 2014. Zoe’s Kitchen CEO Kevin Miles said the company’s goal through 2016 is to continue penetrating markets in the 16 states where the chain already has restaurants, as well as seeding another new market or two.
Healthful positioning. Zoës Kitchen’s healthful, Mediterranean-inspired menu fits well with consumer trends. According to “Winning Back Health-Conscious Consumers,” a report earlier this year from Port Washington, N.Y.-based The NPD Group, “healthy” is the No. 1 characteristic that consumers across all segments and nearly all demographics want to see more of on restaurant menus.
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