The founders of five brands under five years old with fewer than five locations will try to convince execs and advisers attending the Perfect Pitch during the Fast Casual Executive Summit that their concept is ready for expansion.

The Perfect Pitch has become a staple of our annual Fast Casual Executive Summit, and the competition gets hotter every year. Where else can five emerging fast casual brands stand in front of a room full of restaurant executives, investors and vendors to not only pitch their concepts but also receive much-needed advice about their expansion journies? No where!

I call it a “nice” version of “Shark Tank,” and this year’s contestants do not disappoint. You can learn more about them live at the Summit, Oct. 3-5 in Charlotte, but below is a sneak peek of our pitchers. Register here to attend the Summit.

Chick N Max
: 2017 in Wichita, Kansas
Number of units: 3

A nearly 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Chick N Max founder Max Sheets was at the floor of Ted’s Montana Grill when Ted Turner and George McKerrow launched the concept, creating a “better-burger brand.” That experience ultimately led him to the creation of Chick N Max, what he calls the home of “The Better Chicken Sandwich.”

The chain’s chicken is smoked over almond wood, which produces a softer, sweeter flavor than other harsher woods historically used in restaurants like hickory, mesquite or white oak, Sheets said.

What the founder hopes to learn
“Advice on funding the next round of growth,” Sheets said. “Potentially partnering with another brand that has the infrastructure to support fast growth. Also, input on finishing the interior design and branding of the concept as the better chicken concept.”

Little Sesame
: 2018, Washington, D.C.
Number of units: 2

Although Little Sesame was founded to serve the DC business lunch crowd seeking healthy, delicious affordable flavor-driven meals, Maddy Beckwith, the chain’s community engagement and media relations exec, said it has shifted to also accommodate other meal periods and service more residential areas.

“Our CPG launch of our signature hummus into Whole Foods Markets and other grocery outlets allows for us to better serve the home consumer that is seeking plant-based protein meal options,” she said.

What the founder hopes to learn
Advice on opening three restaurants as well as getting more involved in the CPG space.

Magic City Hoagies
: October 2020, in Minot, North Dakota
Number of units: 1

The fast casual lunch and dinner spot focuses on freshly sliced premium meats and cheeses to build hoagies with loads of veggies and sauces while the customer watches.

“I am currently working on my three-year plan/timeline to branch my brand out into several ghost kitchens across the Midwest communities that have similar demographics as the one I’m in now,” said founder Christine Staley. “I have a proven concept that has achieved many third-party accolades and has been considered the best sandwich shop in the entire state of North Dakota.”

The restaurant also offers weekly soups and unique twists on international flavors.

“We would not need a major kitchen build out and the margins on the food are amazing,” Staley said. “I am also also planning on bottling and selling my secret sauce dubbed AKA “City Sauce” that I have created for my hoagies. I would like to package it and sell it as part of my branding.”

What the founder hopes to learn
“At what point do I begin (and where/who do I go to) embracing the trend of technology that is required to run a successful virtual business as well as working with food distributors who offer best practices and pricing to more than one ghost kitchen in order to maintain consistency of product — especially in times of supply chain uncertainty,” Staley asked.

: November 2020, in Chandler, Arizona
Number of units: 1

The build-your-own pasta bowl concept offers sauce and pasta made-from-scratch but cooks each bowl in less than 5 minutes, Founder Cosmo Magliozzi said. The restaurant also offers build-your-own Baked Ziti as well as chocolate pasta dessert.

What the founder hopes to learn
“I would like to know how long it takes to be recognized as a brand that is fairly new to the sector and coming during post Covid,” Magliozzi said.

Wolf Down
: 2018 in Ottawa, Canada
Number of units: 1 (second location will open soon in Las Vegas)

The German street food brand specializes in Berlin döner, thinly sliced meat cut from a vertical rotating grill.

“Our customers are every age group, every ethnicity, families, corporate catering, etc.,” founder Joelle Parenteau said. “Our vegan tofu döner is super popular with vegans and non-vegans alike. Our food is halal, and we offer gluten-free, keto-friendly and dairy-free options.”

What the founder hopes to learn
Looking for help building the right team to expand Wolf Down across the U.S. and Canada. We believe döner could be the next major category and that Wolf Down has the potential to be one of the first movers, with a very strong brand,” Parenteau said.

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