Description

This fast casual restaurant industry report provides an in-depth analysis of the US market and consumer. Discover the market developments impacting consumer preferences and demands here.

Below, we’ve summarized the key topics covered, and offer handpicked insights from the full report.

Key Topics Covered

  • Consumers’ perception of fast casual restaurants.
  • Diners’ expectations of convenience and versatility from fast casuals.
  • Diners’ experience of and expectations from foodservice technology.
  • Ordering behaviors and attitudes at fast casuals.
  • Opportunities for operators to capitalize on consumer trends.

US Fast Casual Restaurant Market Overview

Navigating increased labor costs and consumer expectations, the US fast casual sector faces challenges. Amidst economic uncertainty and potential cutbacks on dining out, ensuring consistent, high-quality experiences is paramount. To meet industry challenges, larger chains are turning to technology and automation to maintain standards and competitiveness.

On the more positive side of the market, as fast casual restaurants offer comparable prices to fast food (discussed in our QSR Market Report), diners are likely to seek the fast casual option in 2023, with the offering of more value for their dollar.

Consumer Trends and Opportunities for Operators

Consumer expectations are evolving as cost becomes top-of-mind

As budget-conscious consumers brace for potential financial uncertainties, their expectations from fast casual restaurants evolve. Diners value consistency and see these eateries as good value for money, but require further incentives, such as loyalty programs, larger portions, and enhanced services. These preferences vary between urban and rural consumers, and the report explores this with statistical data.

Family dining preferences need a tailored response

Families dining out seek consistency and menu versatility. Fast casual restaurants can increase appeal to larger groups with strategies like bundle deals and shared loyalty rewards. Notably, the attributes of “value for money” and “kid-friendly menu” positively correlate with household size, indicating a need to align options accordingly to meet diverse needs.

With this report, you’ll gain access to the latest industry statistics, independently sourced by Mintel. Alongside this, our expert analyst provides commentary and relevant opportunities to appeal to consumer demands. Looking for something else? Explore our other foodservice market research.

Fast Casual Restaurants Definition and Brands Discussed

Definition: Fast casual restaurants – These establishments are characterized by a higher price point than QSRs, though not as high as full-service restaurants. Fast casuals do not offer waiter service and may or may not serve alcohol. Examples covered in this report include Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Shake Shack, Crazy Bowls and Wraps, Eli Tea bar, Naansense, Brightwork Kitchen, Sweetgreen, and Blaze Pizza.

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Expert Analysis from a Foodservice Specialist

This report, written by Jenni Nelson, a leading foodservice analyst, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends in the fast casual restaurant market, adding expert context to the numbers.

Fast casual restaurant menus offer relatively healthy and customizable options at a value comparable to fast food restaurants, yet these attributes aren’t always recognized by diners. The segment is winning on convenience and value; but as discretionary spending tightens, fast casual operators are tasked with demonstrating the versatility of their menus and serving varied consumer needs.

Varchasvi, Foodservice Analyst, Mintel Menu Insights

 

Varchasvi
Analyst, US Foodservice and Mintel Menu Insights

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • This Report looks at the following areas
    • Definition
    • Market context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Consumer trends
    • Competitive strategies
    • Market predictions
      • Figure 1: Category outlook, 2023-28
    • Opportunities
    • Fast casuals can better serve families’ unique needs
      • Figure 2: Fast casual restaurant perception – Select items, by household size, 2023
    • Loyalty apps are a straightforward route to convenience
      • Figure 3: New concept interest – Select items, 2023
    • Highlight menu versatility
      • Figure 4: Fast casual restaurant attitudes – Select items, 2023
  3. Market Drivers

    • Employee retention is expensive yet rewarding
      • Figure 5: Hires and separation levels (in thousands) in accommodation and foodservice sectors, April 2022-April 2023
    • Consumer confidence may be nearing a tipping point
      • Figure 6: Fast casual restaurant visitation, by financial situation, 2023
  4. Competitive Strategies and Market Opportunities

    • Prioritize employee experience when offering personalization
      • Figure 7: Order personalization examples, 2023
    • Aim to boost (not replace) hospitality with automation
      • Figure 8: Sweetgreen Infinite Kitchen, 2023
      • Figure 9: Panera Bread drive-thru pickup, 2023
    • Go the extra mile with global flavors
      • Figure 10: Chicken al Pastor at Chipotle, 2023
      • Figure 11: Brightwok Kitchen’s BYO Menu, 2023
      • Figure 12: Naansense Bowls Menu, 2023
  5. The Fast Casual Restaurant Consumer – Fast Facts

    • Fast casual restaurants enjoy a great reputation among most diners
    • Loyalty programs are the top new concept consumers want to see from fast casual restaurants
    • Older consumers are interested in the convenience restaurant apps can provide
    • Fast casual diners need encouragement to try new items
    • Fast casual restaurants perform well off-premise
  6. Fast Casual Restaurant Ordering

    • Elevated fast food sees highest visitation
      • Figure 13: Fast casual restaurant ordering – NET, 2023
    • Loyalty rewards can drive more traffic from families
      • Figure 14: Fast casual restaurant ordering – High usage – Select restaurant types, by household size, 2023
  7. Fast Casual Restaurant Perception

    • Healthy, family-friendly menu items need better marketing
      • Figure 15: Fast casual restaurant perception, 2023
    • Expand healthy perceptions to capture core demos
      • Figure 16: Fast casual restaurant perception, by generation, 2023
    • Boost convenience to meet family needs
      • Figure 17: Fast casual restaurant perception – Select indicators, by household size, 2023
  8. New Concept Interest

    • Expand convenient access to new meal occasions
      • Figure 18: New concept interest, 2023
    • Help diners make informed choices on value, health
      • Figure 19: New concept interest, by generation, 2023
    • Enhance drive-thru access in rural areas, delivery in urban areas
      • Figure 20: New concept interest, by area, 2023
  9. Fast Casual Technology Experience

    • Loyalty programs offer a route to a seamless dining experience
      • Figure 21: Fast casual technology experience, 2023
    • Leverage proprietary apps for engagement, loyalty
      • Figure 22: Fast casual technology experience – Loyalty, by generation, 2023
  10. Ordering Behaviors at Fast Casual Restaurants

    • Extend marketing efforts beyond the food
      • Figure 23: Fast casual ordering behaviors, 2023
    • Gen Zs are risk averse diners
      • Figure 24: Fast casual ordering behaviors, by generation 2023
  11. Fast Casual Restaurant Attitudes

    • Premium toppings must seem elevated to warrant the added costs
      • Figure 25: Fast casual restaurant attitudes, 2023
    • Fast casual menus are overwhelming without the right information
      • Figure 26: Fast casual restaurant attitudes, by generation, 2023
  12. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms

About the report

This market report provides in-depth analysis and insight supported by a range of data. At the same time, introductory and top-level content is provided to give you an overview of the issues covered.

Market

Mintel provides a range of market information, frequently through the category level, including market size and forecasting, complete with market drivers that illustrate the forces that shape a category or market.

Consumer

Mintel’s proprietary consumer research provides our analysts with the attitudinal and behavioral data used to provide valuable insight to topical issues.

Brand/Company

Mintel provides overviews of the top brands and manufacturers, and uses consumer research to explore attitudes and reactions to brands, as well as insight into what will resonate with consumers.

Data

Market reports provide appendices of data to support the research and insight produced. Our tables of data are easily manipulated and downloadable to support your research needs and covers factors from consumer attitudes to market forecasts.

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