Effective marketing of “Fresh, made-for-you appeal” and “better than quick-service food” messages continues to drive double-digit growth of the format, a new report shows.
The “honeymoon phase” seems far from over for the fast-casual dining segment, FastCasual.com reported, judging by Technomic’s newly released 2014 Top 500 Chain Restaurants report.
According to the market research firm, the segment grew sales by 11 percent in 2013 and unit count by nearly 8 percent, FastCasual.com reported. The largest fast-casual concepts— Panera, Chipotle and Panda Express—each generated strong sales gains of 12, 17 and 11 percent, respectively.
Technomic’s report said drivers of fast-casual’s growth include “better-than-quick-service food,” ambiance and “fresh, made for you” appeal, FastCasual.com reported.
“Watch for even more menu and concept diversity in this sector,” Darren Tristano, an Executive Vice President with Technomic, said in a news release issued with the new report. “Also look for more quick-service and full-service restaurants to realign their formats and develop new fast-casual concepts to compete more aggressively.”
That’s already happened with Taco Bell, which is launching the U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom in California, FastCasual.com noted. And sister-brand KFC spun off “KFC eleven” in Louisville, Ky., last summer, while parent company Yum! Brands is also testing the Super Chix “better chicken” concept in Texas.
Applebee’s now has an express-lunch service in trial in Kansas City, Mo., that is modeled after the fast-casual segment, FastCasual.com reported, and Red Lobster has also experimented with the idea, with its Seaside Express concept in Florida.
The 50 fastest-growing chains in the Technomic Top 500 report were led by “better burger” concept BurgerFi, which increased its U.S. systemwide sales by 178 percent, to $44.5M, and saw its unit count rise by 175 percent, to 33 units.
The rest of the top 20 in the Technomic report was dominated by fast-casual concepts as well, with some casual, quick-service and pizza concepts sprinkled throughout. They included:
- Del Frisco’s Grill, up 83.9 percent in sales and 120 percent in units;
- Twin Peaks (68.4 percent, 64.3 percent);
- CherryBerry (63.2 percent, 42.7 percent);
- Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt (48.6 percent, 38.2 percent);
- Hot Head Burritos (48.2 percent, 26.2 percent);
- Lime Fresh Mexican Grill (47.2 percent, 22.7 percent);
- Mooyah (42.7 percent, 19.1 percent);
- Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers (41.8 percent, 25.3 percent);
- Shake Shack (40 percent, 61.5 percent);
- Nothing Bundt Cakes (39.5 percent, 30.2 percent);
- The Egg & I Breakfast & Lunch (38.2 percent, 31.9 percent);
- sweetFrog (37.2 percent, 65.8 percent);
- Zoes Kitchen (36.5 percent, 40 percent);
- Kneaders Bakery & Café (36.2 percent, 28.6 percent);
- The Habit Burger Grill (34.5 percent, 34.9 percent);
- Marlow’s Tavern (34 percent, 18.2 percent);
- Burtons Grill (33.3 percent, 0.0 percent);
- Chop’t Creative Salad Company (33.3 percent, 26.3 percent);
- Dickey’s Barbecue Pit (32.9 percent, 26.3 percent)