Beyond the Burger: 8 Fast-Food Concepts

If you're looking for an out-of-the-ordinary food franchise that'll grab diners' attentions, start here.

By Laura Tiffany

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Believe or not, some people blech at burgers and ptooie at pizza. If you're anti the typical fast-food fare, or if you just prefer to bring a more exotic eatery to your hometown, fast-food franchising can still offer you a world of opportunity. We've scanned our Franchise Zone listings to bring you eight unique fast-food and fast-casual concepts that caught our eye and gave us hunger pangs.

Please note that doesn't endorse any specific franchises. Rather, we present this information as an introduction to the possibilities that fast-food franchises can offer.

Wild Noodles
This slippery twist on the fast-casual concept presents noodles in three distinct styles: American, Italian and Asian. So at one table, you might have dad eating a teriyaki stir-fry, mom enjoying beef stroganoff, and the kids making a mess of their spaghetti. Food is fresh and cooked to order.

Zoup! Fresh Soup Co.
The soup slingers at Zoup! are out to prove that soup is indeed good food. Each location serves 12 soups daily out of an astounding 200 choices, including offbeat flavors like macaroni and cheese; bacon, lettuce and tomato; and pepperoni pizza. Zoup! caters to the unique needs of customers by always offering one soup daily for vegetarians, dairy-free eaters, low-fat seekers, and spicy food lovers. Salads and panini sandwiches round out the menu.

Qdoba Mexican Grill
Fresh Mex has become a staple of the fast-casual scene, and Qdoba's menu offers some interesting variations on the theme, like the poblano pesto burrito, chicken mole, and a roasted chile corn salsa. Customers watch as their food is prepared, selecting their ingredients for customized experience.

Mama Fu's Asian House
This fast-casual eatery funks up Pan-Asian cuisine. Offering noodle bowls, appetizers, salads and rice dishes, Mama Fu's brings a cornucopia of Asian flavors to the table. Customers are greeted with a robust "Come to Mama!" and then chow down to a soundtrack of '70s and '80s tunes.

Kolache Factory
The kolache is a centuries-old Eastern European pastry filled with sweet or savory ingredients. The Kolache Factory has cleverly expanded on this product with large breakfast, lunch and dessert menus with ingredients that span the globe--Italian chicken, Polish sausage, jalapeno and cheese, and Philly cheese steak. It's a self-contained, on-the-go meal.

Tapioca Express
Long a hit in Asian communities, tapioca (or boba) drinks contain pearls of tapioca that are sucked up through a large straw as you drink, giving you a beverage and snack in one. Tapioca Express offers a whopping 148 drinks ranging from hot coffees and Italian sodas to flavored teas and "Jelly Juices," giving both boba lovers and other beverage aficionados a large selection to choose from.

Salad Creations
The focus is on fresh and healthy at Salad Creations, a fast-food affair that features a menu of salads, wraps, soups and smoothies. The star of the show is the "Create Your Own Salad" option: Salad chefs whip up personalized creations for customers who choose from a bevy of ingredients, 17 dressings and a tossed or chopped option.

Red Rock Chili Company
Though chili is an American staple, there aren't a whole lot of places that offer a wide variety of choices. Red Rock Chili Company aims to fill in that killer downtime between chili cook-offs for chili lovers by offers six kinds each day, serving them a dozen different ways, including on a hot dog, spaghetti, rice, a baked potato and nachos.

Ricky's Candy Cones and Chaos
Candy or ice cream, who can choose? Ricky's makes it so you don't have to. This candy and ice cream shop features bins of candy that can be put in bags or tins or wrapped up as presents. The "Chaos Center" lets sweet tooths build their own sundaes from freshly made ice cream flavors like Cotton Candy, Almond Joy, and Chip 'o' Latte. And for those who want to share the experience, Ricky's offers party facilities.

Ready, Set, Research
Use this list as a starting point in your search for a franchise; then, continue searching in the food section in our Franchise Zone to learn about even more franchises.

When one catches your eye, begin your research. Due diligence includes thoroughly reading a company's literature and its Uniform Franchise Offering Circular, calling and visiting the existing franchisees, and consulting with an attorney and an accountant. Use our thorough how-to to guide you on your journey.

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