Fast Casual Focus: Value & Premium Ingredients
As promised, today is the first of two installments where we go more in-depth on just what’s attracting customers to restaurants using the fast casual model. Fast casual is hot right now, but even if your restaurant or café works best using a different service model, a lot can be learned from what makes this trendy style so popular. Today, we’ll discuss value and premium ingredients, two of the biggest draws of fast casual dining.
A huge part of the appeal of the fast casual model is its apparent value and efficiency. Fast casual restaurants are fast food. The ordering’s done at the counter, the food’s prepared quickly; anyone can recognize the fast food aspect. The food, while not exactly dollar-menu cheap, is also affordable. You’re unlikely to pay as much for a sandwich at Panera as you would at some trendy cafe in the city; a burrito at Chipotle isn’t going to break the bank. What makes the fast casual dining feel so valuable, however, is the sense of a “classier,” “healthier,” and more upscale dining experience with all the same comfort and convenience of the good ol’ American fast food model.
What lesson can we learn here for restaurants who aren’t exactly “fast casual”? Simply, that value — in terms of how much money you spend for the eating experience you get — is important to consumers. Pair that with quick and efficient service, and you have a winning combination.
- Premium Ingredients
Another of fast casual’s appealing characteristics is an effort to incorporate premium ingredients. This can mean a few things; ingredients in your food can be local, organic, fresh, or just plain unique in terms of flavor. We’ve all seen them at fast casual chains — Panera has their fresh baked bread and espresso beverages; Così offers fresh sandwiches and salads and unique drinks such as mojito lemonade; Five Guys advertises just what farm their potatoes are from and when they were shipped in — and consumers like them for their unique flavors and the sense that they’re getting something a little better than might otherwise. Uncommon flavor combinations are becoming more popular, too: a number of ice cream parlors I’ve been too lately have been advertising their sea salt caramel or sea salt chocolate caramel ice creams, and combinations of sweet, salty, and savory are popular among diners who like trying new foods. Fortunately, fast casual restaurants don’t have a monopoly on premium or unique ingredients, and you too can advertise the fresh, local, or unique tasting ingredients on your menu. If your menu offers something out of the ordinary — a strange combination of ingredients or flavors — that’s nonetheless delicious, consider emphasizing or profiling that type of item occasionally for adventurous diners.
By paying attention to the successes of this trendy business model, every restaurant can benefit. What consumers want from their dining experience applies to a variety of types and models of food service. The important thing is paying attention to what people are paying for.
Check back on Friday for another post on fast casual dining, this time profiling healthier options and fresh preparation styles. Until then, contact us here.