The meal mobility trend has had a profound impact on the product development of many foodservice concepts. A concept that has incorporated meal mobility from day one is the popular all-American restaurant chain, White Castle. It was one of the first to meet its consumers’ needs for portable, to-go snacks. We spoke to Jamie T. Richardson, Vice President of White Castle about the effect of the meal mobility trend on his business.
White Caste is the world’s first fast food hamburger restaurant - founded in Wichita Kansas in 1921. Richardson: 'We moved our home office to Columbus in 1934. Today, we remain a family owned and operated enterprise with 403 restaurants in 12 American states. We are known for our distinctive tasting 2-inchsquare "slider" sandwiches. Our hamburgers and cheeseburgers are tremendously popular and some of our devoted customers will go to extreme lengths to satisfy their cravings. In addition to our restaurant presence, since 1986 we have also sold our sandwiches in the freezer aisle at grocery stores. Today, this is the fastest growing part of our business, with distribution in all 50 states and on military bases around the world.'
'Our vision is to "feed the souls of craver generations everywhere" and to "make memorable moments every day". That’s also what shapes our future plans. As a family owned business, we’re in the midst of successfully transitioning from third generation to fourth generation leadership and our focus continues to be to satisfy cravings whilst we provide opportunities for growth for our nearly 10,000 team members.'
Portability & meal mobility
'Portability and meal mobility have always been qualities associated with White Castl', Richardson explains. In 1928, White Castle made the radical move to offer our sandwiches "to go" - something that, prior to this time, was unheard of in the restaurant industry. We created small, individual cartons to package each sandwich and pioneered the idea of '"Buy 'em by the Sack'". Today, our packaging innovations have made it easier for customers everywhere to purchase large quantities of sandwiches, be it thirty to even a hundred, to share with family and friends.'
Recently White Castle created a line of tasty side items named "nibblers". 'So far we have featured fish nibblers - bite sized pieces of Alaskan Pollack with a savoury breading - and shrimp nibblers. In addition, other tasty side items are focused on distinctiveness and portability, like chicken rings, cheese sticks and onion chips. As a sweet desert, the White Castle menu also features 'cheesecake on a stick' and 'brownies on a stick'.'
'In some ways, the more that things change, the more our customers crave the same', Richardson says. 'Today, as in years past, customers are seeking hot and tasty, affordable food that is served by friendly team members. But of course, some things do change. The increasing integration of technology into daily life is perhaps the most visible change. As the first fast food chain with a website, we have always tried to stay one step ahead. We have a White Castle on-line ordering initiative which continues to grow and we’ve made it even easier for customers to place their order through our mobile app.'
'Menu development is important for White Castle. All of our menu items are developed with a keen understanding that food mobility is a key feature customers want and need. In the past year alone we have featured new products like Belgian Waffle Sandwiches, Sriraccha Chicken sandwiches and Italian Pizza Sliders. We are constantly asking customers for feedback, listening intently to what they tell us, and then acting on it.'
White Castle Crave Mobile
Nowadays, it’s all about being at the right place at the right time. That's why White Castle has launched the White Castle Crave Mobile. This "White Castle on wheels" is a fully operational food truck with a kitchen nearly capable of matching the capacity and output of a stand-alone restaurant. 'Our goal with the Crave Mobile is to share more of our story with more people. It has been inspiring to see how well it’s been received and we’re gaining great learning about the many different ways we can connect with customers using this vehicle.'
'Although this program is still in its infancy, our two ‘food trucks’ are welcomed with enthusiasm wherever they go. We have used the vehicles to do everything from catering weddings to cooking at charity events and heralding promotional kick-offs on the streets of New York City. The Crave Mobile is available for special events and most likely to be spotted throughout the Midwest as we travel from venue to venue. In an age where people are seeking ways to have distinctive experiences, food trucks deliver. This is a trend that is likely to continue and expand', Richardson predicts.
Founded in: 1921
Number of outlets (reference date 01-09-2014): 403 restaurants, 3 meat plants, 2 bakeries, 3 frozen food facilities in addition to 2 plants dedicated to making restaurant fixtures.
Head office: based in Columbus, Ohio
Located: restaurants in 12 American states and (retail) distribution in all 50 states and US military bases around the world