Secrets to Success in Fast Causal Dining

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pimento-grilled-cheeseSecrets to Success in Fast Causal Dining

Fast Casual continues to evolve, making the concept a moving target for restaurateurs who are trying to succeed in the market that accounted for 15% of all limited service restaurant sales in 2013, according to the “Top 150 Fast-Casual Chain Restaurant Report”. A panel discussion presented Saturday by NRA’s Fast Casual Industry Council at the 95th annual NRA Show featured three executives from concepts that have managed to get it right and grow their business along with their brand reputation.

Although they work for operations ranging in size from six units to more than 750 units, all agreed that a few key objectives hold the key to success for the future of fast casual. Regardless of size, location or concept, fast casual operators can’t ignore the growing demand for healthy options, the importance of technology and the role that company culture plays in building an engaging and lasting brand.

Consumers crave “the perception of health”

As the health and wellness trend continues to grow and consumers demand healthy dining options, it’s important for restaurant operators to understand what healthy eating means to consumers. Older generations tend to place the most importance on “low” diets, seeking out items with low calories and trans fat. Millennials, however, tend to focus on sustainability and often view sustainable, local or natural foods as being more healthful. “It’s more of a perception of health. Health is what’s important to you. Do I care about where my food came from, or do I care about if it will help me lose weight, or do I care about if it’s going to increase my metabolism? We have to be aware of what the different guest that is coming in is looking for.

Don’t get left behind when it comes to technology

Finding ways to incorporate new technology into restaurant operations should be a top priority for restaurateurs looking to stay relevant with today’s busy consumers. Some restaurants are looking to tech upgrades including kiosk ordering systems that will help speed service. Adopting more automated systems could mean less need for front-of-house staff. When you order most restaurants enjoy bringing you your food. Most like that connection, that interaction, that table-touching. So, you don’t want to lose labor, I want to redeploy labor.

It’s about more than just food

Most owners agreed that great-tasting food is essential, but it’s not enough to keep customers coming back. Today’s fast casual customer is looking for brands they can believe in that focus on issues that are important to them, such as sustainability, philanthropy and cultivating a strong company culture that helps employees succeed. Fast casual guests are interested in brands that bring more to the table than just food. They’re looking for a connection, for a story, for a belief.

Source:, 5-19-2014

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