by Aaron Allen
Restaurant Consultant, Speaker & Industry Analyst
Aaron Allen & Associates
It isn’t enough to know that the fast-casual brands are eating into the market share of fast-food chains and full-service restaurants; nor is it enough to know that “fresh” has become one of the most bankable words in the F&B industry.
Why? Good question. Understanding (and asking) “Why?” is essential; and in this article, we take a deep-dive into the 10 trends we see as reshaping the restaurant industry, giving you the “Why?” you’re looking for.
The restaurant industry is eating itself. For the last five decades, the restaurant industry has typically grown at an average rate that reflects population growth, GDP and inflation – growth that ranges from about three to four percent per year. Certain segments of the industry, however, are surpassing these benchmark industry projections by leaps and bounds, expanding at double-digit percentages with no sign of slowing (not for another several years, at the very least). Essentially, while the industry will continue grow overall, some industry segments are being cannibalized – being eaten – by faster growing categories. Most notably, of course, is the rise of the fast-casual segment, or limited-service restaurants (LSRs).
Fast-casual currently represents approximately $30 billion of the United States’ $700 billion total restaurant industry revenue. In less than a decade, however, the fast-casual market is projected to grow to in excess of an additional $100 billion. This is one of many reasons you see heads rolling and executives sweating at restaurant chains on either side of the LSR divide – the wedge LSR brands like Chipotle are carving with a vengeance between leading quick-service restaurants (QSRs) like McDonald’s and full-service chains like Darden.