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Technomic Looks at the Future of Fast Casual

CHICAGO (October 24, 2011 - PR Newswire)—Fast-casual growth continues to outpace that of quick service and full service. Though it’s still a small segment—comprising 6 percent of the restaurant industry—its influence is great.

With origins in once-innovative concepts such as Fuddruckers and Koo Koo Roo and the “home meal replacement” trend; and prime development seen in chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread and Five Guys Burgers and Fries; the fast-casual sector has evolved and expanded. The old terminology “adult fast food” is no longer an adequate definition.

“Watching the success of fast-casual concepts, quick-service restaurants have adapted by improving menu items and adding fresh positioning. Leading QSRs like McDonald’s and Wendy’s are upgrading to fast-casual like décor and Chick-fil-A is testing table delivery,” says Technomic EVP Darren Tristano, who has been studying the fast-casual phenomenon since its identification in the early ’90s.

“Full-service restaurants have integrated elements of fast-casual too, such as Pizza Inn’s recent launch of the Pie Five Pizza Co. concept and Denny’s Fresh Express,” says Tristano. “But innovative fast-casual concepts continue to evolve, adding full-service elements like table service in the evening and quick-service convenience like drive-thrus and delivery, defying the typical ‘fast-casual’ definition.”

As a follow-up to its Foodservice Planning Program study of the fast-casual segment, presented to suppliers in January 2012, Technomic is launching a new Fast Casual Insights Group which will provide ongoing monitoring and growth forecasts.  Key components include:

  • Qualitative and quantitative operator research to determine how they define “fast-casual,” the critical strategic issues and competitive threats facing operators, and technology’s role in the segment.
  • Analysis of Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics data, outlining the attributes that drive satisfaction at fast-casual concepts and how individual brands rate on these attributes.
  • Historic perspectives including sales and unit growth, segment share and analysis of why some concepts have earned ongoing success while others have struggled or ceased operation.
  • A predictive view of the future, including growth forecasts through 2020, the concepts and niches that will see long-term success and why.
  • The Fast-Casual 400—the most thorough ranking of fast-casual concepts, available exclusively with this report.