Dining for our family has been so different over the last several years as I’ve lost all of this weight, and still work hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Not only did I change my lifestyle, eating more “real” foods that are fresh and without additives, I have also focused on teaching my kids to be a bit more choosy about what they ingest. This included taking fast food out of my diet completely and limiting what they are allowed. Even now, they make smart choices when dining out with friends, generally making fast food the very last thing they would choose.
The chain of restaurants known as PDQ celebrated five years of business this past weekend .As a part of their birthday celebration Audley and I were invited out to check out this awesome brand with a tour and lunch! Let me tell you, this upscale, fast-food restaurant is one my family can visit over and over!
PDQ is casual, fast dining for the whole family. Established in 2011 by one of the founders of Outback Steakhouse, Bob Basham and Nick Reader, this restaurant has grown to fifty-five locations in eight states in just five years and is planning to branch out, opening thirty more in 2017!
Having worked at McDonalds and a dinner riverboat to pay my way through high school and college I pretty much know there is a lot the food industry doesn’t want you to know. I was quite surprised and pleased at the transparency of PDQ.
Audley and I were met by Michael Francisco the operations director at the Columbia, SC location of PDQ. He set Audley up right away with a hand-spun Oreo milkshake (I didn’t say everything was healthy and calorie free) and we were off on a complete tour of the restaurant.
One of the first things I noticed was that the entire restaurant is an open concept. You have a complete line of vision to the kitchen where food is prepared and can see each employee (all of whom were extremely busy and cooperating with one another) working.
Knowing how your food is prepared is really important to me, just as knowing what I am eating is. The dining area is open as well with walls of windows to allow for natural light. They also have TV’s in the dining room for sports coverage.
The menu at PDQ is quite simple: chicken tenders, nuggets, and sandwiches, turkey, salads, blueberry slaw, zucchini fries, French fries, shakes, and cookies. In-house made lemonade (consisting only of real sugar, water and fresh squeezed lemons), Joffrey’s tea (those who frequent Walt Disney World will appreciate this), and bottled water from their own source in Florida (instead of using a brand bottling company) round out their menu.
So what makes PDQ different and why would I choose it over another restaurant known for its chicken?
1. The chicken and turkey is never frozen and delivered fresh a couple of times each week. The poultry is marinated in-house made marinades for 24-hours, then breaded and cooked as ordered (there is a station for breading chicken that never stopped while we were there).
For a healthy option you can order grilled chicken items as well. And if that doesn’t sound appealing enough, the chicken is hormone and steroid free. Visit their website where they list what all is in products that they use as a disclaimer regarding allergies.
2. All sauces are made daily in-house with name-brand ingredients and individually packaged. You don’t have to pay extra for any sauces (which means my son the condiment king would be really happy about), so if you need extra you get it. Marinades are also created in-house using real honey (save the honey bees) and other quality ingredients. And the honey-butter for the new chicken sandwich which appeared on the menu this week? Real butter tempered in the store and mixed with honey. It’s that simple.
3. Fries … yep, 400 pounds of French fries are cut and prepared daily in the store.
And if you don’t want fries, go for fried zucchini, also cut fresh and battered in-house. Fries are cooked in their own vat of vegetable oil where floured products are not allowed. This keeps them from becoming contaminated with gluten from the breaded chicken products.
4. Salads are made when ordered, so that you can choose what fresh ingredients you want on them. Vegetables are delivered to the store a couple of days a week where they are prepped fresh everyday; no bagged salad mixes here. PDQ also has these yummy candy-coated almonds that you can add to your salad, and guess what? They make the coating right in the store. They are also prepped in small individual containers to keep them from contaminating other items that might reach someone who is allergic to nuts.
5. Cookies. The yummy cookies are baked daily in the store and then individually wrapped. The cookies that contain nut products are baked and wrapped separately. PDQ goes to great lengths to protect their customers with allergies.
6. Customer service is so important to me in any dining experience. PDQ goes above and beyond in customer service starting in the drive-thru. With no speaker box to be found, customers drive right up to the “hospitality hut” where they are greeted in person by someone who takes their order face-to-face.
This cuts down on mistakes that often occur by the use of a speaker box and keeps the experience personal. After placing an order in the drive-thru you drive on around where your food is given to you. The goal for food service is less than a two minute wait. There are separate assembly stations for the drive-thru and dinning room to cut down on confusion and running over each other while trying to work. Each station stays fully stocked with sides and condiments.
All of the employees at the Columbia location were super friendly and worked well together. Communication is key to keeping things running smoothly in the restaurant.
7. PDQ wants to be very active in the community by supporting schools at all levels, sports teams and churches. Each store has a budget for community service and uses all of it, sometimes more to meet community needs. Since they use their own brand of bottled water, they donate a lot of water for any number of situations where it is needed without having to get permission from bottling companies.
The PDQ we visited in Columbia is next to Ft Jackson military base and the University of South Carolina. They have free delivery and expanded their area to a 30 minute drive to meet the needs of the communities. South Carolina students can even use their Carolina Cash (money connected to their id cards) to pay for purchases which is super convenient. They also offer Military Monday where military personal and their families receive a discount.
Audley and I tried a smorgasbord sampler of some of PDQ’s best selling items as well as the new honey-butter chicken sandwich which is way better than another popular chicken sandwich that gets a lot of attention!
The Honey-Butter chicken sandwich is absolutely delicious! Hand-battered chicken on a Brioche bun drizzled with honey-butter with bread and butter pickles …
PDQ Tenders will make any chicken loving child and adult very happy!
This is like “Friday after Thanksgiving” on a bun … grilled turkey on a brioche bun, cranberry sauce and lettuce.
Fried Chicken salad tossed in house-made honey mustard
Blueberry slaw made with mayonnaise, cilantro, red wine vinegar, poppy seeds and a touch of honey … you’ll want extra!
And a cookie to top it all off; peanut butter, chocolate chip to go!
While we were treated to dinner for our review, all opinions of PDQ are totally my own and we will definitely dine here again.
Now I am giving you an opportunity to check out PDQ for yourself and see why we were so pleased! I am giving away dinner for five at PDQ. Unfortunately since PDQ is only in a few states (Florida, Georgia, north & South Carolina, South Alabama, Texas, Las Vegas, and New Jersey), it may limit you on participating. If you travel a lot, by all means enter so that you can check them out!
To enter, go to the menu on the PDQ web page and tell me what you might like to try AND then tell me what you look for when choosing a restaurant for you and your family!
It’s that simple. You have until Monday, November 7 to enter and I’ll notify the winner through email.
I will also be doing a Facebook give-away and an Instagram giveaway, so be sure to follow me so that you will have an extra opportunity to win!