Learning from the Fast Casual Craze
Happy Monday morning to everybody. I hope work’s treating you well this week, and that maybe you’ve had some time to enjoy the start of the Olympics. Watching the Games, you see a marked difference in commercials — what they’re for and who they feature — and it’s obvious that a big portion of the consumer populace is increasingly interested in health, fitness, and well-being, especially during international sporting competitions. The commercials for Subway and other health-oriented fast food options remind us that while America will always love food-to-go, the values and options offered by quick, efficient restaurants have become important for diners to consider.
It’s been a while since we’ve talked about fast casual dining, one of the most quickly growing segments of the restaurant industry. Fast casual restaurants — you know, the ones where you stand at a counter and get to customize your meal from a variety of fresh, usually-visible ingredients — have become increasingly popular, as consumers attempt to mesh together the American stand-by of fast food and a growing interest in fresh, healthy, and sustainable ingredients. The most recognizable restaurants in this category are the national chains: Chipotle, Panera, and Five Guys, to name a few. However, one walk down a busy city block quickly shows the popularity of this restaurant style, both in chains and smaller, independently owned options. Whether you’re looking for salads, sandwiches, burritos, burgers, or just about anything else that can be served up quickly and with a number of customizable options, fast casual dining is on the rise.
That said, the fast casual model probably can’t work for every kind of cuisine or style of restaurant; it’s not as though consumers don’t also still go out to places where they can sit down, order off a menu, and have their needs attended to by a waiter or waitress. Still, the rising popularity of fast casual dining does offer a certain amount of insight into the consumer mind. What is it that people want these days when they go out to eat? How can we apply these things to any style of food service?
Fast casual restaurants offer four main things that are becoming increasingly important to customers:
-fresh preparation styles
Over the course of this week’s posts, I’m going to break these four customer desires down into further detail and see how they can apply to just about any style of restaurant or café. On Wednesday, we’ll talk about value and premium ingredients, and on Friday the topic of discussion will be healthier options and fresh preparation styles. Hopefully, by breaking these ideas down as they relate to every restaurant, not just upscale fast food joints and delis, the current trend will shed light on changing customer values, something every restaurant — regardless of style — ought to be paying attention to.
Until then, contact us here.