Is it the end of casual dining?
Some may have you think so as local restaurants are feeling the pinch as more and more customers are moving away from table-service restaurants and instead choosing meal options that are fast, healthy, and convenient.
If increasing sales slumps and restaurant closures are any indication of this growing trend toward fast-casual food, then casual dining is definitely in danger.
What is Fast-Casual?
Think healthy food meets convenience. Then add in a dash of efficiency and speed and you have the making of a fast-casual establishment.
They also typically offer immediate service, fresh and delicious food, build-your-own meal choices, take-out or eat-in options, and of course affordable prices.
All of these features make fast-casual eateries highly attractive and have contributed to a massive market growth of 550 percent since 1999.
In fact, the fast-casual market has seen the largest growth in the hospitality industry over the past few years.
Why the Shift?
Let’s face it.
Millennials are a key demographic here and are transforming the way food is served.
This younger demographic is creating a demand in the marketplace that emphasizes healthier and local food ingredients, sustainability, and quick service.
They want food fast but they also want it to be fresh and tasty almost as if they cooked it themselves.
As more millennials and dual-income young families spend less time at home and more time eating on the run, casual dining restaurants would be wise to learn how to adapt to this new demand for fast, nutritious food.
Jumping On the Trend
Fast-casual dining is here to stay and many casual restaurants are looking for ways to capitalize on this fresh and invigorating way of dining.
With this demand for fast-casual food on the rise, savvy restaurants are cashing in by incorporating some of the following practices into their business…
Tap into the power of mobile – Mobile ordering and payment is a key feature that most fast-casual eateries are intricately connected to and offers consumers fast and efficient ordering capabilities just by picking up their smartphone.
This is a definite must in this dining market.
Stay on top of food trends – Knowing what trend is on the rise can help casual restaurants be proactive and responsive when planning their food menus. Perhaps fast-casual pizza is on the rise. Or maybe Asian and Latin American flavors are making a splash in the local fast-casual eateries. Watch the trends closely and see how you can incorporate these preferences into your menu planning.
Offer fresh, nutritious food – Healthy food that can be prepared fast will win over many millennials who are looking for a quick nutritious fix for their hearty appetites. Consider what menu items can satisfy this need for fast, nourishing food and then offer them through various multiple service channels, such as delivery, drive through, and take-out.
While it may not be the demise of casual dining altogether, consumers are speaking up about their desire for fast, nutritious food that fits into their busy lives. If local restaurants want to stay current and on the radar, including fresh, fast menu items would certainly make a difference in attracting millennials to their establishment.