Fast-Casual Restaurant Trends

From quick burger joints to smoothie bowls and sushi, the fast-casual restaurant segment continues to drive sales and expand within the foodservice industry.

According to Restaurant Business, the segment’s unit growth far outpaced the rest of the industry in 2018.

“The fast-casual sector alone added more than 1,200 locations (in 2018). That means almost 4 out of every 5 restaurants opened by Top 500 chains was a fast-casual concept.” (Restaurant Business, Segment Smarts Report, May 2019).   

Why is Fast-Casual Dining So Popular?

A hybrid of sit-down and fast food establishments, fast-casual concepts allow guests to order at the counter and seat themselves. This model allows operators to serve more customers with less staff and higher profit margins.

  • A Customizable Experience
    Fast-casual restaurants allow consumers to create their own dining experience without sacrificing quality.  Diners are able to come and go at their own pace. As a result, meal times are much quicker than traditional restaurants—allowing operators to increase their profits by serving more customers and reducing the amount of wait staff needed.
  • Higher Quality Food
    When fast-casual restaurants entered the market more than a decade ago, they promised higher quality food in a limited-service format. Premium meal options have allowed fast-casual concepts to increase their profits by charging more per meal than quick-service restaurants.

Fast-Casual Trends

If you are considering opening a fast-casual concept or interested in updating your current operation, here are a few consumer trends to consider for your menu:

  • Online Ordering & Take Out Options
    The popularity of takeout and online ordering has resulted in the need for fast-casual restaurants to expand. Rather than hiring delivery drivers, more and more fast-casual restaurants are joining popular food delivery apps to establish a delivery program.

  • Vegan & Vegetarian-Friendly Menus
    Vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more and more popular. This makes the demand for protein alternatives even higher for restaurant owners. Developing creative ways to include protein inside of meals that do not come from meat is a fun challenge that can not only be a great expression of your cooking staffs’ abilities, but can also give your restaurant a unique identity.

  • Probiotics & Fermented Ingredients
    Another new trend in ingredients is creating dishes with benefits. For example, fermented foods are filled with probiotics, a healthy digestive that balances bacteria in the gut. Customers can feel like they’re getting more than just a healthy meal—they’re getting something good for their body as well. Playing with these types of ingredients in 2019 is a must.

To learn about Alto-Shaam’s fast-casual equipment solutions, attend A Taste of Alto-Shaam demonstration near you.

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