The Fast-Casual Restaurant Model – The Millennials Modern Day Restaurant Champion
With the approach of 2008, Americans found themselves in a new economic world, a world that found them with increasingly less disposable money in their wallets for dining. Folks that were used to going out 5 or 6 times a week had decisions to make to either stop going out, or find their prepared meals at a more affordable price. For many health conscious Americans, fast-food simply was not a viable option as they still wanted food that was perceived to be healthy and also made with fresh ingredients. This spawned the dawning of the age of the Fast-Casual restaurant model.
What exactly is a Fast-Casual restaurant? The Fast-Casual concept is lodged between the casual dining and the fast-food restaurant models. A typical Fast-Casual restaurant has a limited table service format, or is reliant completely on a self-service arrangement and usually does not have any drive-thru access. The ambiance of the Fast-Casual restaurant is usually far more upscale than a typical fast food concept revolving around the food genre’s concept. A good atmosphere is very important and it should mirror the restaurants concept. Fast and friendly service is essential, delivered by employees that are happy and not observed drudging through their shift. The average ticket price is normally around $8-$15, which is affordable for most Americans and Millennials. Its value driven and doesn’t just revolve around the cheapest price point – the dreaded unhealthy $1 menu. The successful key factor is the use of good, healthy and fresh ingredients, which drives customers to this perceived healthy dining option. It’s not the death of the fast food burger, but rather an upgraded heathier burger quality option of this staple food at a more affordable price than a full service restaurant.
This Fast-Casual restaurant market segment is now an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. According to the market research firm Euromonitor, since the year 1999, the Fast-Casual concept has erupted with a growth rate of more than 550%. Faster and better by far than any other restaurant segment by a long margin. Euromonitor’s study further states that Americans spend a whopping $21 billion on the Fast-Casual concept a year. Furthermore, the slowdown in the economy, after the 2007 economic recession, really delivered a Mike Tyson caliber right hook to most segments of the restaurant industry, but not the Fast-Casual concept. This segment doubled its growth during the recession’s peak points. Again, an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.
The Fast-Casual concept isn’t a closely held secret. Folks know a winner when they see one and the Fast-Casual concept is definitely an economic profit bullseye. It’s further strengthened by the fact that it seemingly isn’t ever going to go away, which also brings security. So, with that said, the competition for market share is becoming fierce. Sticking to the high standards of good quality food, in a good atmosphere, delivered by fast and friendly staff members, is the combination code to unlock success in this segment. You need all three working symbiotically, in order to experience success. Failing at one can spell disaster and consumption by competitors. Food standards and delivery, as well as, décor and atmosphere can mostly be held in control but service standards are very dynamic and need to be monitored rather closely. Mystery shopper services can be a saving grace with this aspect helping operators more closely monitor a myriad of stores that may be peppered all over their city or eventually country for that matter. The secret shoppers, armed with criteria specifically tailored to their individual Fast-Casual concept, can help operators really keep their finger on the pulse of spread out operations. The undercover shoppers can deliver information that can help course-correct a store that may be lagging behind and could cause a marring of the overall brand. Something an emerging concept can ill afford.
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