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Check out 10 fast-rising restaurant concepts

A fast-casual Mediterranean grill that lets patrons customize their offerings tops a ranking of emerging restaurant brands.

Cava Grill is No. 1 on data analytics firm Fishbowl’s sixth annual “Emerging Brands Report,” a listing of the top 30 emerging restaurant brands best positioned to succeed based on innovative approaches to food, service, atmosphere, and customer service. (Only companies with five to 75 locations are eligible.)

To create the list, Fishbowl solicited nominations from industry experts, food enthusiasts, industry executives, advisors and thought leaders and also reviewed, blogs, industry publications, and media mentions were reviewed. The company then used its proprietary social analytics to develop more structured reviews, check-ins, and ratings. Fishbowl noted that its Emerging Brands list is a good indicator of existing trends. One year, for example, burger and pizza restaurants dominated. Distinctive in 2018 was the diversity of concepts, from burgers and Mediterranean to Asian and Italian. This year, restaurants offering healthy, high-quality nutritional foods, salads, and vegan menus dominated the list.

Here’s a rundown of the top 10 brands (the extended list of the Top 30 Emerging Brands is available for download here).

1. Cava Grill: Fast-casual concept serves up traditional Greek fare, with lots of customization options, in a modern setting;

2. Bartaco: Sixteen-unit casual restaurant chain offers upscale street food and specialty cocktails inspired by the beach culture of Brazil, Uruguay and Southern California (acquired by DelFrisco’s Restaurant Group in 2018);

3. True Food Kitchen: “Polished casual” restaurant caters to a wide variety of food preferences, with vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian and organic offerings. With 23 locations, aims to double its footprint by 2021;

4. Dig In: Fast-casual brand works with over 100 farmers, with crops planted to coordinate its seasonal American food offerings; also has its own farm. Operates 28 units, primarily in New York City and Boston;

5. Mendocino Farms: Fast-casual eatery has a neighborhood, community-building vibe, specializes in unique sandwiches made from seasonal ingredients. Twenty-four locations with five coming soon;

6. Urban Plates: Features upscale food via cafeteria-styled service, its goal is to empower consumers interested in making better food choices. With 13 locations, the brand plans to triple its size with new funding received in late 2018;

7. Lemonade: Casual restaurant offers seasonal fare (and standout lemonades) in a cafeteria setting in its 28 sites;

8. The Little Beat: Featuring a wide variety of healthy food and vegan options, all menu items at this fast-casual restaurant are gluten-free. Nine locations in New York and Washington, D.C., expanding into Florida in 2019;

9. Bibibop: Known for bold flavors, healthy ingredients, and build-your-own options, this fast-casual Korean food grill has 30 locations;

10. Punch Bowl Social: Targets millennials with quality food and beverage offerings served up in a high-energy and high-design environment that includes arcade games, bowling, ping-pong and more. Fifteen locations, with eight in the works.
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