Marketing Lessons From Denver’s Top Fast Casual Chains

This is the third post in a series about Fresh Hospitality’s latest trip to Denver, Colorado to scout out some big competitor and learn more about them. These are just the raw facts and our thoughts from the trip – hope you enjoy. (Find Part One and  Part Two here)

Now that I’ve reviewed the two major fast casual concepts we wanted to visit – I am going to share a few of the key lessons from our visit.

Lesson #1: Telling The Customer Your Food is FRESH, HEALTHY, and LOCAL

Every concept we visited was very forward and upfront about telling the customers how fresh, local, and healthy their food was. Signs, posters, and even entire walls were dedicated to this. These concepts really drilled home how fresh and healthy their food was.

I think this is something that we could do a better job of at Tazikis and our other fast casual concepts – we all know the food is healthy but we don’t tell the customers -we just assume they know it too but even a simple slogan like “No Freezers, No Fries – Always Fresh & Healthy” somewhere in line or near the front of the restaurant could help establish this in the customers mind. We saw signs like this at nearly every competitor.

Garbanzo had a huge focus on this – when you are standing in line they have an entire wall talking about how fresh and healthy the food is.

“Compromise is a bad word” is the slogan Garbanzo used on their wall:

Garbanzo also featured posters ALL over their walls alternating between the words “Fresh” and “Healthy” with paragraph descriptions about Garbanzo’s food.

The focus on healthy messaging to consumers is really a reflection of consumers continued shift towards healthier brands and making healthy choices. I think concepts that do a good job communicating a healthy message to their consumers are going to have a significant edge over brands that don’t focus on it. Tokyo Joes had a similar focus – right when you walk in the door there is a sign talking about how healthy, fresh, and local their food is.

We also stopped by Brothers BBQ in Denver – a locally owned Chain with ~10 locations that is considered by many to be the best BBQ in Denver. The food was pretty underwhelming, they do not cook anything on site and they commissary the BBQ in each day from a central location where they cook it. The only thing on site were fryers and some heating units.

One thing we really liked that they did do – they were selling t-shirts that had the following logo on them. This could be something to consider in Alabama for our brands – “Family owned and Alabama grown.”

Wanna see the next big takeaway from our Denver visit? Find part four of our scouting trip right here.

Let me know what you think about these lessons and stay tuned here and on Twitter to keep up with Fresh Hospitality’s adventures.

What 43 Hours In Denver Taught Me About Fast Casual (Part 2)

This is the second post in a series about Fresh Hospitality’s latest trip to Denver, Colorado to scout out some big competitors and learn more about them. These are just the raw facts and our thoughts from the trip – hope you enjoy. (Find Part One Here)

Next stop on the Fresh Express was the highly impressive fast casual concept Tokyo Joes. These guys executed very effectively and have a great concept.

Tokyo Joes

Tokyo Joes is an Asian (Japanese) fast casual concept located in Denver. In just the Denver market Tokyo Joes has 25 locations. What does that tell you about the strength of the concept? These is a very real contender in the fast casual space right now.

Tokyo Joes was structured with a build your own menu where you select your protein, carb, sauces etc and it also featured some pre-made dishes. Tokyo Joes did have the server bring the food out to you and had very friendly service across the board.

Tokyo Joes had great use of some awkward interior spaces, community seating, and wall seating. They also continued the trend of hammering the customer with the message that their food is healthy and local (full details here). We went in the late afternoon but you can tell that Joe’s does a really strong lunch.


Tokyo Joes is probably one of the strongest concepts in Denver and the leading fast casual restaurant. We also think the strong presence of Tokyo Joes may be why Chipotle (based originally out of Denver) chose to open their Asian fast casual concept ShopHouse in the DC market first instead of their native Denver.

Wanna see where the big lessons we learned on our trip? Find part three of our scouting trip right here.