Fast Casual Remains on Fast Track for Growth

Fueled by demand from Generation Z, the fast casual segment is positioned to enjoy more growth during the next decade.

Demand for fast casual restaurants will grow significantly during the next ten years, according to data released by market research firm NPD. Teens and young adults, particularly those ranging in age from 10 to 30 years old, will drive the Incremental traffic for fast casual operations. This demographic, also known as Generation Z is expected to be 90 million strong by 2019.

Also contributing to growth in this segment, but to a lesser extent are consumers more than 55 years old. These findings were part of NPD's A Look into the Future of Foodservice, which provides a ten-year forecast of foodservice trends based on aging, population growth, and trend momentum.

NPD reports that visits to the leading fast casual restaurant chains grew 17 percent during the last three years, while the rest of the industry experienced its steepest traffic declines in decades. And consumer demand for fast casual offerings exceeded the unit growth of leading fast casual chains, according to NPD data. Since 2007, fast casual unit availability expanded 12 percent and traffic has grown by 17 percent.

For the year ending December 2010, visits to the leading fast casual restaurant chains, like Chipotle, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Noodles & Company, and Panera, were up six percent compared to the previous year, according to NPD's CREST® data, which continually tracks consumer usage of foodservice outlets.

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