The restaurant industry is still struggling to return to pre-recession business levels. The one segment which has fared better than all others is fast casual. With the total number of units growing again, operators are marketing new menu offerings to get consumers to come through the door, or at least place an order with their smartphone.
Technomic, an industry-specific research shop, just published its 2011 Top 100 Fast-Casual Chain Restaurant Report. Top level data from the report shows that the fast-casual sector achieved 2010 revenue of $18.9 billion, a 6% increase over the previous year. In addition, about 15,827 units now compete in the space, marking a 3.9% growth rate. The success of the fast-casual operators has not gone unnoticed. Darren Tristano, Technomic Executive Vice President says quick service concepts “are revamping their offerings and décor in an attempt to provide value beyond low prices and take back market share.”
In the fast casual sector, the following trends are noticeable and likely generating ad campaigns:
- Bakery cafes are the leading menu category with the most sales – linked to the key player – Panera Bread.
- The fastest growing menu categories in the Top 100 Chains are ‘better burger’ (+16.1%), Asian/noodle (+10.1%) and Mexican (+9%).
- Adult beverages are a ‘differentiator’. About 40% of fast-casual operators now offer beer, wine and or spirits and that number is expected to grow.
As the competition heats up between the fast-casual and quick-service sectors, look for operators to use marketing campaigns to position themselves as unique.[Source: Fast-casual restaurant growth continues to outpace rest of industry. Technomic. Com. 16 May 2011. Web. 7 Jun. 2011]