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FROM THE FLOOR: Fast Casual is Talk of the Town

Fast-casual exectuives discuss the booming category during a panel at the National Restaurant Association's annual Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show.

 

Fast casual continues to be the hottest segment of the restaurant industry, so there’s no surprise that it’s drawing plenty of attention during the National Restaurant Association’s annual Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show.

Kick It Up a Notch

Some like it hot. And some like it even hotter. Fiery dishes are heating up limited-service menus as operators increasingly recognize consumers’ growing interest in spicy, hot entrées.

A 2013 Consumer Flavor Trend Report by Chicago-based restaurant market research firm Technomic found that a majority of Americans (54 percent) now prefer hot or spicy foods, sauces, dips, and condiments. That’s up from 48 percent in 2011 and 46 percent in 2009.

Small Portions a Big Idea

Small portions are very big these days.

Many 2013 trend predictions determined that small plates and snacking are expected to be popular among chefs and restaurant operators this year. While diners are still eating during the traditional meal times—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—they are eating less at those times, opting instead to have five or more smaller meals a day.

LIVE: Social Media Deal Sites Boom for Operators

As social media continues to explode as a marketing tool, limited-service restaurants will likely face even more decisions about how to spend their time and dollars in an effort to use special online deals to grab the attention and loyalty of customers.

Whether it's the use of Facebook, Twitter, or other tools to drive fans to the restaurant or daily deal couponing via Groupon and LivingSocial, operators are continuing to see their social media options grow.

500 Million Reasons to Launch Online Ordering

Facebook now boasts 500 million active users. The average Facebook user clicks the Like button nine times, writes 25 comments, and becomes a fan of two pages each month, according to Mashable’s Facebook Factlook. The average user also has 130 friends on the site—giving their Likes a wide reach of influence among friends.

Realizing the influence Facebook users have on their networks, a growing number of quick-service restaurants are taking their fan pages to new heights by incorporating online ordering directly through the Facebook interface.