Because fast-casual spots like Chipotle Mexican Grill are apparently the next big thing, Italian-ish chain Romano's Macaroni Grill has announced it's building fast-casual counters inside more than 130 of its locations nationwide. NRN reports the new concept, Romano's Kitchen Counter, is geared to lunch customers looking for a fast option; the limited counter-service menu features sandwiches, pasta, and calzones with the promise that lunch will be ready in "seven minutes, or it's free." Diners can either carry-out their lunches, or seat themselves in the dining alongside full-service customers.
In an interview with NRN, Macaroni Grill's president calls the counters "taking it to what we think is a head-of-the-class of the fast-casual movement." An executive from parent company Ignite Restaurant Group (which also owns Joe's Crab Shack) uses the ever-bandied-about word "millennials" to describe the Kitchen Counter's key demographic. (In recent months, the elusive millennial demographic has inspired chains to do everything from ferment things to pile-on meat to put kale on menus.) Romano's Kitchen Counters debuted in Macaroni Grill locations earlier this week and are only open from 11a.m. to 4p.m.