The newly released 2020 Future of Fast Casual Report developed and published by Foodservice Results and QSR Magazine has found that the fast-casual restaurant industry’s growth slowed to a pedestrian 6.6 percent rate in 2019. Fast-casual restaurant growth, which represents $60 billion in annual U.S. restaurant sales, slowed dramatically from the previous decade, when growth exceeded 10 percent annually.

Although consumer demand continues for quality food at fast-casual restaurants, the growth in number of locations had slowed even prior to the coronavirus outbreak due to a lack of good real estate locations and the closing of aging, older fast-casual brand stores. “The foodservice environment saw an oversaturation of restaurants in the U.S., making it more difficult for older brands to survive and newer, popular brands to expand in new and existing markets,” says Darren Tristano, CEO at Foodservice Results. “With limited growth in restaurant occasions and more competition from supermarkets, convenience stores, and ghost restaurants, much of the growth in fast casual came from new restaurant openings, price increases, and stealing share from other limited and full-service restaurants.”

Different stories exist between each fast-casual menu category. The leading 250 fast-casual chain brands represented $49.8 billion in U.S. sales in 2019 and 83 percent of the fast-casual U.S. industry sales. Led by the fast-casual pizza menu category, these leading chains, including MOD and Blaze Pizza, posted sales growth of 8.7 percent. Close behind was the Mexican category’s growth of 8.6 percent, with brands like Chipotle Mexican Grill continuing to see strong sales and continued expansion. Burger (6.3 percent), chicken (6.1 percent), Asian (6.0 percent), and sandwich (5.9 percent) chains posted moderate but below-average growth. The bakery-café segment posted the lowest growth rate at 3.3 percent, with strong competition from coffee cafes. The highest growth rates were occurring within the specialty restaurant menu category, which grew at a rate of 11.2 percent. This category includes healthy, Mediterranean, barbecue, and poke chain concepts.

“Although great uncertainty exists from the COVID-19 crisis, insights from this report will help suppliers and operators plan their strategy and manage scenarios for the current year,” Tristano says. “The report data and insights remain relevant as the industry prepares and plans to navigate the new normal.”

The 2020 Future of Fast-Casual Report provides consumer insight into this trending category. Key themes include:

  • Key competitive trends impacting the competition for fast-casual operators;
  • Consumer insights from a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers on their attitudes and usage;
  • Three- and 1-year forecasts and outlook for industry growth, including each major menu categories;
  • Performance and growth rates for the leading 250 fast-casual U.S. chain restaurant brands.


Click here for a snapshot of some of the data, and for insights into how brands within six fast-casual categories are innovating to stay ahead of the competition. For press inquiries, contact Darren Tristano at For more details and to purchase the report, contact Greg Sanders at 

About Foodservice Results

Foodservice Results was founded as a strategic research and consulting firm in 2018. Led by industry expert and CEO Darren Tristano, the firm provides research and analytic capabilities.  Our services allow restaurant operators, manufacturers and distributors to make informed decisions to support their business growth. Visit Foodservice Results at

About QSR magazine

QSR magazine is a thought leader for the quick-service and fast-casual restaurant industries, delivering news and insights to restaurant owners, executives, managers, chefs, franchisees, and more. Now in its 23rd year of publication, QSR takes seriously its role in promoting industry values through its award-winning editorial content. Visit for more.

Consumer Trends, Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, News