“Does green really sell,” is the question I am most consistently asked. Amanda’s is one of my favorite answers to this question. It is a restaurant that its founder, Amanda West, defines as “Whole Foods meets In–N-Out Burger.” It is also likely that Amanda’s represents the future of the fast food industry.
America is a fast food nation with approximately 200,000 fast food restaurants generating national annual revenues exceeding $120 billion (Hoovers). While the names of internationally branded companies like McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s or KFC dominate our collective consciousness the industry is actually highly fragmented with the top 50 sized companies accounting for only 25% of sales.
And the entire restaurant industry is under tremendous stress during this recession. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that restaurant insolvencies in the first quarter of 2009 were 33% higher than the last quarter of 2008.
In comparison, Amanda’s opened its doors in July 2008 and has achieved year over year sales increases while three nearby restaurants have been forced to close. The Secret Green Sauce™ for Amanda’s success is healthy convenience food offered at competitive prices. My first meal at Amanda’s was a veggieburger and apple “fries” that cost $6. It was my first veggieburger and I was stunned at how good it tasted. The apple ”fries” were actually a sliced raw apple diced to look like French fries and served with a honey yogurt dipping sauce rather than sugar-rich ketchup. The meal looked like fast food, tasted great and was priced similar to what I would normally pay at Wendy’s.
Amanda’s success is supported by market research conducted by M/A/R/C Research that asked fast food customers how important it is to them that fast-food restaurants participate in green initiatives. Almost half of those surveyed felt a fast food restaurant’s participation in green initiatives was either very important or extremely important. Reflecting the leadership role Concerned Caregivers (our moms) are playing in the adoption of sustainability, over half the women surveyed held this position.
“Approachable” is a how Amanda defines her strategy for creating a healthy fast food restaurant. Her goal is to remove the price, taste and convenience barriers that may have limited healthy dining’s appeal to the mass market. She is achieving this goal by offering:
- Prices that attract budget-driven buyers
- A menu that is tasty and healthy
- Fast, efficient service that you would expect at a fast food restaurant
- A “feel good” environment that is created by offering a communal table where neighbors can meet, a highly motivated staff that senses a higher purpose by opening the discovery door of healthy eating to yet another customer and a restaurant design that uses Low-VOC paints so mothers can be comfortable that their children will not be exposed to toxins.
Amanda is also a green-realist. “We can’t afford to do all organic.” To be price competitive and still offer healthy food she uses all-natural meats with no hormones or antibiotics. She does use organic cheeses, apples and greens. Her best selling item is the classic cheeseburger. “But my goal is to get people who never would consider eating a veggieburger to migrate from eating our burgers to trying a veggieburger. And this approach is working, I am seeing customers who have never eaten a veggieburger trying one here,” Amanda explains.
And she is always seeking continuous improvement from her supply chain to increase the restaurant’s sustainability at competitive prices. “We timed it right for opening Amanda’s,” she explains. “Everything we serve, including the napkins and utensils, is compostable. But in 2007 the supply chain wasn’t in place to achieve this result. Now, the only reason we have a trash can is to collect what customers bring into our store that needs to be thrown away.”
Amanda’s people-centric focus extends to her work associates or her “team” as she calls them. A key element in creating a team-adhesion was in defining a mantra that would clearly articulate to associates what the company stood for and how it would make decisions. The mantra Amanda chose was “Healthy Community.” This phrase is something all of her associates related to, was easy to remember and it represented what they wanted to be part of. When confronted with those “fork-in-the-road” decisions every business confronts the team asks themselves which fork is most supportive of achieving a “Healthy Community.”
There are several challenges that Amanda’s restaurant faces as a start-up company in a highly competitive market space. Her restaurant can’t compete against the chain’s 99 cent loss leader offerings. She is also still looking for that “sustainable toy” to compete against the toys being given away in the major chain’s youth-promotions. And of course the advertising campaigns of the national brands are multiple times larger than Amanda’s annual revenues. But despite these disadvantages Amanda is on track to achieve her goal for creating a national healthy fast food chain. The Secret Green Sauce™ for Amanda’s consists of:
- A Big Vision for creating a green fast food restaurant chain within a $120 billion annual revenue industry
- Aligning Value with Values Strategy for offering convenient, competitively priced, convenience food that Awareness Customers™ are increasingly seeking
- Supply Chain Strategy that generates the foods and ancillary items that supports a sustainably designed, competitively priced, restaurant
- A Human Resources Plan that is a team culture of individual engagement built around the clearly articulated mantra of “Healthy Community” that inspires associates and facilitates decision making
- A “Know it, Embrace it” Stakeholder Outreach Campaign that facilitates the Awareness Customer’s process of learning, experimentation and procurement.
Do you have an “Amanda’s” in your town you want to nominate for pioneering healthy dining? Here’s the four categories:
- Fast Food
- Sit Down Dining
Criteria for nominating are:
- Got to be healthy (give an example of your favorite meal)
- Price competitive
Submit your nominations by posting a comment below.