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CHICAGO -- Fast-casual restaurants have become the standout in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) arena and are projected to remain so for the immediate future, according to new data from Technomic. The segment now earns $27 billion in annual sales and accounts for 14 percent of all QSR sales -- a swift increase from only 5 percent a decade ago.
Fast-casual sales are projected to compound 8 percent annually over the next five years.
"The fast-casual segment is still evolving in ways that are strongly influencing all sectors of the restaurant industry," Technomic Vice President Joe Pawlak told members of its Foodservice Planning Program. "While we categorize them among limited-service restaurants, they also compete strongly with full-service casual dining on several dimensions."
"Full- and quick-service operators continue to adapt and reposition their concepts toward areas in which fast-casual has been effective with consumers," added Technomic Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. "This shift will likely blur the definition of fast casual in the eyes of consumers and increase competition in the segment."
Technomic listed the "10Fs" of fast-casual's consumer appeal in its presentation:
• Food quality
• Fine ingredients
• "Fitter," wholesome food
• First-rate decor
• Fair price
• Fast service
• Friendly employees
• Flexible offerings
• Full-view preparation
Other key features of fast-casual include a fast food service system, strong takeout orientation and check averages under $9 each, according to Technomic, which subclassifies the segment into categories such as bakery cafes, Mexican/Southwest, specialty, sandwich, chicken, and burger concepts.