Description

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the US Fast Casual Restaurants consumer market, including the behaviors, preferences, and habits of the consumer.

The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted US foodservice sales and restaurant traffic; however, limited service restaurants, including fast casuals, were better equipped to respond to changing consumer needs with safe, convenient, and lower-cost meals compared to their full service restaurant counterparts.

While fast casuals, and fast casual restaurants market share, fared better than full service operators throughout the pandemic, they still face heavy competition from the convenience and value of QSRs, which have recovered faster. Despite this, 58% of fast casual diners agree fast casuals are a better value than fast food restaurants. Fast casuals can drive value through the use of quality ingredients and have ample opportunity to increase traffic by expanding focus beyond core dayparts to include happy hour, snacking, or even remote work occasions. Additionally, revamping the menu to include international and fusion fare can appeal specifically to younger generations who already are core segment diners.

Read on to discover more about the US Fast Casual Restaurants consumer market, read our US Restaurant Takeout and Delivery Market Report 2021, or take a look at our other Food and Foodservice research reports.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the fast casual market.
  • How fast casuals can stay competitive amid the value and convenience of QSRs.
  • The biggest future opportunities for daypart and menu expansion.
  • The importance of off-premise investments including contactless pickup, mobile apps, online ordering and ghost kitchens.

Covered in this report

Brands include: McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Shake Shack, Blaze Pizza, Chili’s Grill & Bar, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, IHOP, Golden Corral, McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Applebees, The Caital Grille, Morton’s Steakhouse, La Madeleine, Saladworks, Walmart, The Halal Guys, Curry Up Now, Target.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

This report, written by Emma Allmann, a leading analyst in the Food and Foodservice sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Fast casual restaurants need to remain nimble and convenient for diners to continue on the road to post-pandemic recovery. This means catering to traditional mealtimes as well as expanding to other occasions, such as for work or happy hour. Expanded occasions and menu items can especially appeal to younger generations and parents, both core segment users.


Emma Allmann

Jr. Analyst

 

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
    • Definition
    • Market context
    • Economic and other assumptions
    • COVID-19: US context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of limited-service eating places*, at current prices, 2016-26
    • Impact of COVID-19 on fast casual restaurants
      • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on fast casual restaurants, 2021
    • Challenges and opportunities
    • Fast casual falls short of QSR and casual visitation
      • Figure 3: Restaurant visitation in the past three months, 2021
    • Make it easy for Gen Zs, Millennials to stay connected
      • Figure 4: Fast casual restaurant attitudes, by generation, 2021
    • Break the mealtime habits
      • Figure 5: Restaurant visitation occasions in the past three months, by generation, 2021
    • Enhance the parent experience
      • Figure 6: Interest in fast casual concepts , by parental status, 2021
    • Get young adults craving with cuisine exploration
      • Figure 7: Fast casual cuisine interest, by age, 2021
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • LSRs boom post-pandemic
    • Fast casual struggles with pandemic fallout
    • Supply of food and workers are running low
  4. Market Size and Forecast

    • LSRs expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2021
      • Figure 8: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of limited-service eating places*, at current prices, 2016-26*
      • Figure 9: Total US revenues and forecast of limited-service eating places*, at current prices, 2016-26
  5. Market Factors

    • Foodservice faces a worker’s rights reckoning
    • Gearing up for another Roaring ’20s
      • Figure 10: COVID-19 Tracker, 2021
    • The fast casual identity crisis
    • Supply chain fallout
      • Figure 11: Changes in consumer food price indexes, 2020-21
  6. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Digital sales incentivize ongoing digital investment
    • Fast casuals blur segment lines
    • Off-premise opportunities remain
  7. Competitive Strategies

    • Digital strategies level the competitive landscape
    • Comfort foods and quality options
      • Figure 12: Menu innovation, 2020
  8. Market Opportunities

    • Virtual food halls tap experience, value to extend fast casual reach beyond on-premise
    • Fast casual favorites can differentiate retail foodservice programs
      • Figure 13: Fast casual innovative concept interest, 2021
    • Fast casual menus still have room to go global
      • Figure 14: Cuisine interest, 2020
  9. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • Fast casual recovery sluggish
    • Show non-parents some love
    • Turn a healthy reputation into an experience
    • Diversify menus beyond meals
  10. Restaurant Visitation

    • Fast casual recovery sluggish
      • Figure 15: Restaurant visitation in the past three months, 2020-2021
    • Premium upgrades can extend the opportunities
      • Figure 16: Restaurant visitation in the past three months, by income level, 2021
    • Millennials, parents are the primary fast casual diners
      • Figure 17: Restaurant visitation, fast casual, by key demographics, 2021
    • Hispanic consumers are important fast casual diners
      • Figure 18: Restaurant visitation, by Hispanic origin, 2021
  11. Fast Casual Restaurant Occasions

    • Move beyond lunch and dinner to satisfy younger palates, occasions
      • Figure 19: Restaurant visitation occasions in the past three months, by generation, 2021
      • Figure 20: Restaurant visitation occasions in the past three months, by parental status, 2021
  12. Fast Casual Restaurant Occasion Interest

    • Help facilitate the next Roaring ’20s
      • Figure 21: Restaurant occasions interest, by age, 2021
    • Draw even more parents in for dinner and drinks, family style
      • Figure 22: Restaurant occasions interest, by parental status, 2021
  13. Fast Casual Restaurant Factors

      • Figure 23: Fast casual restaurant factors – NET any rank, 2021
    • Younger generations drive the need for updated convenience
      • Figure 24: Fast casual restaurant factors – NET any rank, by generation, 2021
    • Location, cuisine drive non-parent choice
      • Figure 25: Fast casual restaurant factors – NET any rank, by parental status, 2021
    • Help Hispanic consumers looking for healthier options
      • Figure 26: Fast casual restaurant factors – NET any rank, by parental status, 2021
  14. Interest in Fast Casual Restaurant Concepts

    • Tap into the power of retail partnerships
      • Figure 27: Fast casual innovative concept interest, 2021
    • Promotions, products, partnerships can build loyalty with parents
      • Figure 28: Fast casual restaurant innovative concept interest, by parental status, 2021
    • Increase Gen Z engagement through healthy convenience
      • Figure 29: Fast casual restaurant innovative concept interest, by generation, 2021
  15. Fast Casual Restaurant Cuisine Interest

    • Fast casual fans hungry for more varied tastes
      • Figure 30: Fast casual cuisine interest, 2021
    • Young adult palates cravings go beyond mainstream
      • Figure 31: Fast casual cuisine interest, by age, 2021
    • Hispanic consumers are hungry for cuisine growth
      • Figure 32: Fast casual cuisine interest, by Hispanic origin, 2021
  16. Fast Casual Restaurant Attitudes

    • Turn a healthy reputation into an experience
      • Figure 33: Fast casual restaurant attitudes, 2021
    • Fast casuals can be the third space, and then some
      • Figure 34: Fast casual restaurant attitudes, by generation, 2021
  17. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Sales data
    • Forecast
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
  18. Appendix – The Market

      • Figure 35: Total US revenues and forecast of limited-service restaurants*, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2016-26

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