Fast casual restaurants continue to be a bright spot for the foodservice industry, which has yet to fully recover from the Great Recession, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company. NPD’s foodservice market research shows visits to fast casual restaurants up eight percent in 2013 over prior year compared to no growth for the total industry and quick service segment. Spending at fast casual restaurants increased by 10 percent last year compared to two percent growth at total restaurants.
Fast casual chains, which are perceived to have enhanced service and higher quality food than traditional quick service restaurants, have a higher average check per person compared to the check size of a traditional quick service restaurant visit. Guest check sizes at fast casual restaurants on average were $7.40 last year, higher than the average quick service restaurant visit check of $5.30, but still much lower than the average full service restaurant visit check of $13.66, according to NPD’s CREST research, which tracks daily how consumers use restaurants and other foodservice outlets.
Unit expansion was a major contributor to the fast casual restaurant category’s growth. There are now 16,215 fast casual chain units in the U.S., an increase of six percent, from last year according to NPD’s Fall 2013 restaurant census, ReCount.
“Overall, restaurant customers are trading down, foregoing some of their visits to full service places while increasing the number of visits made to fast casual restaurants,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Fast casual concepts are capturing market traffic share by meeting consumers’ expectations, while midscale and casual dining places continue to lose share.”