It’s close to impossible to dislike crepes. The thin-in-stature yet rich-in-flavor pancake can wrap itself around a mixture of flavors – savory and sweet, breakfast, lunch or dinner – making it easily customizable to anyone’s tastes and, as one restaurateur has found, a smart concept for the fast-casual food market.

Earlier this year, Caribou Coffee  announced that 100 percent of the coffee and espresso beans it uses in its locations are Rainforest Alliance Certified™. Caribou Coffee hence became the first major coffeehouse chain in the nation to achieve this status, which means all of its coffee is grown under the highest standards of sustainability. Caribou Coffee beans are grown using sustainable farming methods and strict water conservation techniques, and the people who grow them are treated well.

From its birth in a modest kitchen nearly 30 years ago, Buffalo Wings & Rings has come a long way, President and CEO Roger David says. Based in Cincinnati, the firm operates more than 40 restaurants that serve chicken wings and sauces, burgers, salads, soups and onion rings.

Founded in 1980 with one location in Winter Park, Fla., Barnie’s Coffee and Tea helped pioneer the coffeehouse concept as it is known today. “Our first store opened their doors on Park Avenue in Winter Park with a clear purpose: share the best coffee and tea from around the world with our neighbors and friends,” the company says.

Care in cooking, ingredients and presentation set Aurelio’s Pizza apart from competitors, President and CEO Joe Aurelio says, but that’s just the start. Growing the business and keeping it going strong is just as important as serving a distinctive pizza. “We have a 53-year history with our business,” Aurelio emphasizes. “We give back to the community. They are our neighbors – it’s in our DNA. And because of this, we’re very well-received.” This includes sponsorship of teams, choirs, bands and local community organizations. Often, Aurelio’s locations will hold events for community organizations at which 10 to 20 percent of the proceeds for that evening are donated to the organization.

The “wow” factor is what sets The Alicart Restaurant Group’s properties apart. From a family-style plate of spaghetti with meatballs the size of softballs to barbecue cooked all night and day in massive smokers, what keeps the restaurants unique is that jaw-dropping reaction from diners.

Inspiration comes to us in many different ways: a bird inspiring us to build a contraption to fly, a falling apple uncovering the science behind gravity, the astounding power of a summer storm to garner the electricity to  light up our lives. For Jeff Sinelli, who founded Which Wich in 2003 in Dallas, inspiration came in the form of a brown paper lunch bag.

Pacífico Heras started his first restaurant in 1988 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, offering Northern Mexican food with some influence from his native Sinaloa, on the Pacific Coast. Heras wanted to offer high-quality food in a relaxed, convenient atmosphere at reasonable prices.

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