The fast-casual segment continues to lead growth within the restaurant industry. With an 11% increase in 2013 sales and nearly 8% increase in units, fast-casual concepts among Technomic’s 2014 “Top 500 Chain Restaurants” comprise many of the fastest-growing restaurant chains. At the same time, leaders Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Panda Express posted healthy sales gains (of 12%, 17%, and 11%, respectively).
Fast-casual restaurants, with their ambiance and fresh, “made for you” appeal, continue to align with the needs of today’s consumers. While bakery cafes are still doing well overall, unit expansion is now more likely to happen in burger, Mexican, other sandwich and specialty concepts, diversifying the fast-casual landscape.
“Watch for even more menu and concept diversity in this sector,” said Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic Inc. “Also look for more quick-service restaurants and full-service restaurants to realign their formats and develop new fast-casual concepts to compete more aggressively.”