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    Fast-Casual Chains Keep Beating other Restaurants: Study

    A new study by foodservice consultancy Technomic, Inc. found that the Top 100 fast-casual chains continued to bring the lion’s share of growth for the limited-service restaurant industry in 2007, outperforming the restaurant industry as a whole.

    A new study by foodservice consultancy Technomic, Inc. found that the Top 100 fast-casual chains continued to bring the lion’s share of growth for the limited-service restaurant industry in 2007, outperforming the restaurant industry as a whole.

    Fast-casual restaurants provide fast service and fresh, high-quality food in upscale settings,. Said Technomic. The Top 100 chains totaled $14.8 billion in sales, accounting for most of the $16 to $17 billion that the entire fast-casual industry grossed in 2007, an industry that demonstrates solid performance and diversity across several menu categories.

    Technomic said the menu composition trends at the Top 100 fast-casual chains were:
    Other Sandwich -- 20 percent
    Mexican -- 19 percent
    Bakery Café -- 18 percent
    Pizza/Italian -- 12 percent
    Asian -- 9 percent
    Chicken -- 9 percent
    Hamburger -- 7 percent
    Specialty -- 6 percent

    Fast-casual restaurants occupy a niche that at one end gives casual-dining consumers an opportunity to “trade down” to lower-priced yet high-quality fresh food; and at the other end allow quick-service customers to “trade up”  to a more upscale “third place” environment, said Technomic. They offer food  quickly at a cost that is usually only about $2 to $4 more than typical quick-service venues.

    “Competition is getting tougher within this segment,” said Darren Tristano, e.v.p., Technomic Information Services. “New chains are constantly emerging—some similar to concepts already out there, while others are spin-offs of their full-service counterparts. To continue competing successfully, fast-casual chains must align themselves even more closely with the needs of their target customers.”

    The report said four key characteristics will have an ongoing influence on fast-casual menus and continuing growth opportunities: 1) exceptional flavor and spice profiles; 2) high-quality ingredients; 3) regional ethnic cuisines; and, 4) fresh and healthy inspirations.

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