Fast-Casual Restaurants Continue to Gain UK Market Share

Fast-casual restaurants, already the darlings of the U.S. restaurant industry, are continuing to gain market share in the U.K.– growing at a faster rate than their limited-service counterparts, according to Technomic’s 2010 Leading 100 U.K. Chain Restaurant Report.

The term fast-casual applies to limited service restaurants that provide a sophisticated, upscale experience with made-to-order preparation using fresh, gourmet ingredients at a price point between quick- and full-service offerings — generally 7-12 pounds. In 2009, the leading fast-casual chains grew their sales at a rate of 28.2 percent, with unit counts increasing 19 percent during the same time period.

According to Technomic EVP Darren Tristano, the trend could have staying power. “Consumers are frequenting fast-casual concepts for a number of reasons, but it really comes down to how these restaurants appeal to a consumer’s lifestyle, offering a small upgrade from traditional quick-service, with healthier, fresher menu items.” Tristano points out that after this growth, the category occupies slightly over 10 percent of the limited-service portion of the leading 100 U.K. restaurant chains.

The Technomic Leading 100 U.K. Chain Restaurant Report is the most comprehensive ranking, analysis and overview of the U.K. chain restaurant industry. The report helps develop sales and marketing strategies, identify growth opportunities and monitor segment and menu category performance. Interesting findings include:

  • The Bar and Grill category, made up of casual-dining and pub chains, continued to be the leader in total sales and units for the full-service restaurant segment.
  • The Coffee and Other Beverage category was the second largest in the limited-service segment, with total 2009 sales exceeding £1.2 billion, an increase in 13.5 percent over the prior year.
  • The fastest growing menu categories for full-service restaurants were Asian, up 12.9 percent; and traditional, up 11.3 percent. In terms of unit growth, French and Asian were the best performers, up 9.6 and 9.5 percent respectively.

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