6 Emerging Fast Casuals Will Battle to Win the Perfect Pitch at the Fast Casual Executive Summit

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Six operators will pitch their concepts Oct. 15 to attendees and a panel of advisers at Networld Media Group's annual Fast Casual Executive Summit in Austin.

Six concepts, three advisers, 500 colleagues. That's the recipe for the 2019 Perfect Pitch, a contest held at the Fast Casual Executive Summit in October in Austin.

It wasn't easy, but we are excited to hear more from these six brands that represent a variety of cuisine from across the country.

Six concepts, three advisers, 500 colleagues. That's the recipe for the 2019 Perfect Pitch, a contest held at the Fast Casual Executive Summit in October in Austin. After sifting through about 100 nominations from emerging fast casual brands hoping to pitch their business plans to an audience filled with restaurant operators and executives as well as venture capitalists, the FastCasual editorial board chose only six to take the stage Oct. 15.

"It wasn't easy, but we are excited to hear more from these six brands that represent a variety of cuisine from across the country," said Kathy Doyle, publisher of Networld Media Group, the parent company of FastCasual. She described the contest as a friendlier version of "Shark Tank," for entrepreneurs looking for a leg up with growing their brands. "Over the years, we've seen several really great concepts and are honored to provide a vehicle to help them succeed."

To be considered, brands nominated themselves and had to:

  • Have at least one store open but no more than 10.
  • Be no less than 6 months old and no more than 5 years old.
  • Share revenue and average sales data.

On the day of the event, after each brand leader gives a five-minute pitch, attendees and judges will vote on the concept they believe is most likely to succeed in its expansion plans.

The winner will receive $5,000 in cash.

Meet the six contestants:

Sweet Carrot
Opened: 4 years ago in Columbus, Ohio
Number of units: 3
Cuisine type: Southern comfort food

A few words about the brand
"Sweet Carrot is a fresh, casual restaurant that serves the made-from-scratch comfort foods you've always loved, in an inventive way," CEO Angela Petro, told FastCasual. "From griddled corncakes topped with house smoked brisket, corn salsa and crisp tart coleslaw to scratch made cookies that your grandma baked, Sweet Carrot is about feeling good."

What it hopes to learn from Perfect Pitch advisers
"Pace of development. We are holding at three locations yet believe we have potential based on the uniqueness of the concept, quality of the food and strength of operations to grow far beyond our current locale," Petro said. "However we are very intentional in our outlook and will not put such a young brand at risk by moving too fast. What are the triggers, if you will, that help operators understand it's time to move and grow? Then, how the hell do you find the dollars to do it without losing the heart of the business?"

Royals Hot Chicken
Opened: 3 years ago in Louisville, Kentucky
Number of units: 2
Cuisine type: Hot chicken

A few words about the brand
"Fried Chicken tends to be fairly universal, but with our focus on spice, craft beers, and bourbon milkshakes, we tend to skew towards a more millennial demographic," Owner Ryan Rogers told FastCasual.

What it hopes to learn from Perfect Pitch advisers
"How fast should we be scaling and how do we effectively manage a new market internally vs. franchising?" Rogers said. "As we start construction on a third location within Louisville the conversation tends to skew towards a new market and how to select the sites, manage it from Louisville, find the team, and make the right connections with the city/state to get it open."

Roll Play
Opened: 4 years ago in Vienna, Virginia
Number of units: 1
Cuisine type: Vietnamese

A few words about the brand
"Roll Play reinvents a tradition of healthy, fresh and tasty Vietnamese food," Co-founder Di Dang told FastCasual. "We take the exciting palettes from the streets of Vietnam and make it simple, customizable, and fast. While redefining the tradition, we keep the same familiar feeling of home. Our concept features four core products: Rice Paper Rolls, Vermicelli Bowls, Pho and Banh Mi."

What it hopes to learn from Perfect Pitch advisers
How to scale to the point of franchising.

Karma Farm
Opened: 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia
Number of units: 1
Cuisine type: Organic cafeteria, including grass fed brisket, blackened mahi and truffle tomato avocado salad.

A few words about the brand
"We are America's first certified gluten-free fast casual and bakery by the gluten intolerance group," said Co-owner Scott Wilder. "We are a modern 'meat & 3' cafeteria-style restaurant. We believe in karma and what goes around, comes around. We donate a meal to a local child in need for every meal sold thru our partnership with No Kid Hungry. I am a longtime vegan, my wife has an auto-immune disease and can't have gluten, and my son has deadly peanut allergy. We source only humane meats — grass fed meatloaf, brisket — organic produce."

What it hopes to learn from Perfect Pitch advisers
Operations and the ability to scale this amazing, unique concept

Due' Cucina Italiana
Opened: 3 years ago in Seattle, Washington
Number of units: 1
Cuisine type: Authentic Italian

A few words about the brand
"We are innovators in the space because we serve authentic regional Italian pasta dishes and other recipes made fresh from scratch every day, using only the highest quality ingredients, largely locally sourced, meeting or exceeding the quality provided by the best fine dining Italian restaurants in Seattle but for just a fraction of the price," CEO Davide Macchi said. "Currently we are serving 10 pasta sauces, which can be combined with 8 different pasta shapes. In addition to pastas, we offer a small selection of entrees, appetizers/salads and desserts. Everything is homemade and served fresh: no freezer allowed in the store!"

What it hopes to learn from Perfect Pitch advisers
"We will be presenting our business plan for the next five years and we are looking for feedback on our growth strategy and operating model," Macchi said.

Puli-Ra
Opened: 2014 in Austin
Number of units: 1
Cuisine type: Heavily influenced by South India but explores other regions

A few words about the brand
"We're a food trailer that operates purely as a hyper-local supper club," Chef Deepa Shridhar said. "Everything is made in-house with the help of a 200-year-old pecan butcher block and a wood-fired oven. We travel to different spots in Austin to throw the best dinner parties possible."

What it hopes to learn from Perfect Pitch advisers
"We are wanting to focus on brand recognition this year and would love to pivot to a national audience while maintaining a low overhead," Shridhar said.

Early Bird registration for the Fast Casual Executive Summit is open until September 13. Register here.

About Networld Media Group

Founded in 2000, Networld Media Group is a leading business-to-business (B2B) global media communications company specializing in digital media, associations and events in the mobile, self-service, digital signage, retail, food service and financial services industries. Online properties include ATMmarketplace.com, BlockchainTechNews.com, DigitalSignageToday.com, FastCasual.com, FoodTruckOperator.com, KioskMarketplace.com, MobilePaymentsToday.com, PizzaMarketplace.com, QSRweb.com, RetailCustomerExperience.com and BiblicalLeadership.com. Networld event properties include the Fast Casual Executive Summit, CONNECT: The Mobile CX Summit, Interactive Customer Experience Summit, Bank Customer Experience Summit and the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit. Networld also operates the ICX Association. BOOM! Creative, provides clients with digital creative, custom media and brand collateral. Its newest offering, World of Money, is a daily e-newsletter that provides a fun and informative look at the trends, technologies, and ideas shaping the future of money and payments.

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Kathy Doyle, President & Publisher
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