Fast-Casual Restaurants Grow at Rapid Pace Across US

Fast-Casual Restaurants Grow at Rapid Pace Across US
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August 30, 2013

Fast-casual restaurants are the fastest-growing segment in the restaurant industry, with the number of such chains growing by 7 percent between the spring of 2012 and this past spring, to 15,728, according to NPD Group.

The marketing firm defines a fast-casual eatery as a fast-food restaurant that offers better-quality food and whose check size is higher than at a typical fast-food place. Examples are the likes of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Panera Bread, and Boston Market.

Visits to such restaurants continue to grow even while total restaurant industry traffic has grown little, says Greg Starzynski, director of product management at NPD. For the 12 month period that ended in May, the number of visits to fast-casual restaurants rose by 9 percent, while total industry traffic stayed flat, NPD says.

"Many of the fast-casual chains have been adding units in an otherwise soft restaurant environment," Starzynski said. "Traditional quick-service restaurants have taken notice and are working to compete with the fast-casual chains' offerings, especially in terms of the freshness and quality of food. All of these efforts will benefit both the consumer and industry."

The Fort Collins–Loveland area of Colorado boasts the most fast-casual chain restaurants per 100,000 residents, according to NPD, with 13.14 of those per 100,000 residents. The U.S. average is five fast-casual restaurants per 100,000 residents.