New Opportunities for Fast-Casual Restaurants

Posted by Tara Webber


America is the birthplace of fast food, and for many decades the brightly lit plastic signs of Arby’s, McDonald's, Taco Bell and many more have marked the landscape. From Boston to San Diego, fast food has been the way to go for those on the road or in need of a quick meal.

For those looking for healthy, quality food, however, options were limited to sit-down restaurants, which are neither quick nor necessarily affordable.

In the early part of the 2000s, though, this began to change, and the restaurant that seemed to lead this charge was Chipotle.

With freshly prepared foods, much of it organic or sourced from local providers, Chipotle began serving up hefty burritos, filled with fresh ingredients in a matter of minutes, all at a price most everyone would handle.

This dining experience, which became known as fast and casual, combined the best parts of fast food with the best parts of sit-down dining, and it exploded in popularity, forever changing what people expect when they order a quick meal.

Fast and casual today

Today, fast and casual restaurants like Panera, Noodles and Company, Five Guys and others have popped up all over the country. These chains have changed the restaurant industry and are even challenging the fast-food hierarchy. Many single-location restaurants and cafes, in fact, have adopted the fast and casual model, which combines quality and efficiency to offer customers the best of both worlds.

In this series of blogs, we'll take a look at some restaurant-industry trends many fast-casual restaurants are embracing. Some of these involve making small tweaks to the menu, while others challenge how customers are served. The blog topics will include:

The ever-evolving smoothie

Smoothies have become an incredibly popular menu item that people order as a treat, a workout supplement or an on-the-go or workplace meal replacement. The smoothie has evolved in many surprising ways and nowadays people are adding all kinds of unexpected ingredients into the mix. In this blog we’ll explore how fast-casual restaurants can take advantage of this trend and expand their menus to include a variety of smoothies without a significant cost or major overhaul to their operations.

Limiting food waste

People are trying to eat in a way that is more environmentally responsible today, and this means they are more concerned with food waste. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate food waste, we’ll take a look at several steps restaurants can take to limit food waste and how such measures are both environmentally and economically sensible.

The brave new world of food delivery

With more people eating alone and plenty of busy professionals unable to find the time to cook for themselves or their families, many restaurants are cashing in on the increased demand for home delivery. As consumers are looking for more convenient options, big players like Amazon and Google have gotten involved. We’ll look at how this will benefit restaurants and how you can take advantage.

Aromatic and flavorful spice blends

Over the past few years, heat has been king among diners; restaurants couldn’t keep enough Sriracha or Tabasco on the shelves. But now, hot foods have given way to flavorful spice blends and sauces. These flavors come from all over the globe and bring a new, subtle dimension to your menu staples, not to mention your reputation.

Whatever type of restaurant you own, reading these blogs will provide insights into some of the directions the industry as a whole is moving and help you keep up with the expectations of your guests.

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