Blurring the Lines: The Indefinable Success of PDQ

pdq
Photo: Tampa Bay Times

In the world of foodservice marketing, we’re always thinking of the industry landscape in terms of concepts and segments — but the newest addition to my local restaurant lineup is proof that it’s getting harder to put certain brands in a box. If you’ve never had the pleasure of dining at PDQ, you’re missing out — and the delicious chicken is only part of the equation.

This Tampa-based chain operates more than 50 locations in eight states and is technically “fast casual” by design — but what makes the customer experience memorable is how PDQ draws from elements of other concepts to create something unique.

The restaurant’s order-at-the-counter setup should be familiar to fans of chains like Five Guys — and its “feel-good” guarantee promises nothing but hand-prepared, made-to-order freshness — but what really gets your attention is the speed. You’re barely finished filling your beverage at the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine before your order is already waiting for you. It’s fast casual with a fast food tempo.

The chain also borrows the same personal touch in its messaging that you might expect to see at a locally owned neighborhood joint: very direct, very friendly, very comfortable.

Taking your meal to go? You’re in for quite a surprise when you drive up: no intercom, but a real person (in a chef’s coat) leaning out the window to take your order.

As PDQ continues to grow, its quality, service and freshness will surely be significant factors in its success — but its unique “line-blurring” style between fast food, fast casual and non-chain may just be the secret ingredient.

Making eight different dipping sauces in-house doesn’t hurt either.

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