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The Rise of Fast Casuals

The news of Shake Shack going public has sparked conversation anew regarding the fast casual side of the dining industry. Restaurants like Panera, Chipotle, and Shake Shack (which began with one stand in New York City) have forced a change in what consumers consider fast dining--and why they consider it. While fast food and quick-serve chains drew large crowds in their early days for their convenience, it was clear then that the customers were willing to let health and taste values slide in that convenience's name. 

James Surowiecki, for the New Yorker Financial Page, recently contributed the shift in fast-food dining from traditionally identified fast food chains to the "fast casual" chains to income distribution, changes in taste, and advances in technology. (If that sounds familiar to you, our restaurant consultants looked at an overall shift in the restaurant industry due to these factors in our Top Trends report--Millenials being the driving force behind these changes.) 

If nothing else, the switch from traditional fast food to fast casual proves the importance of catering to your customers and trends. In the 1980s, with economies booming and lifestyles changing, all diners wanted was convenience--to be able to grab a quick bite between a conference call and the flight out to the next meeting. But a major rising trend is health. Restaurant patrons are looking at your ingredients: Are they fresh? Are they organic? Are they locally-sourced? For example, Colorado's own Chipotle uses antibiotic-free meats to appease this new emphasis on food sources. The story of Shake Shack shows that good business is customer service and delivery upon request above the newest gimmick or high-end price points. What was once a burger stand in a park is now a multi-location business and a publicly-traded company (Chipotle's history reads similarly). 

So how do you read trends and your customers' voices? Look beyond the price tags on your menu or what has worked before. Our restaurant consultants are professionals in the business of translating trend to function for your restaurant. Contact us today for free advice on how to get your business on track with what people want.