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Fast Casual Continues to Influence Other Market Segments

Technomic Launches Fast Casual Insights Groups

Though a small segment of the market — totaling just 6 percent of the restaurant industry — fast casual is influential and continues to expand thanks to the evolution of such chains as Chipotle, Panera Bread and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. And the QSR and full-service segments of the restaurant industry are beginning to take notice and emulate this service style, according to the results of a new Technomic study.

"Watching the success of fast-casual concepts, quick-service restaurants have adapted by improving menu items and adding fresh positioning. Leading QSRs like McDonald's and Wendy's are upgrading to fast-casual like décor, and Chick-fil-A is testing table delivery," says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic.

"Full-service restaurants have integrated elements of fast-casual too, such as Pizza Inn's recent launch of the Pie Five Pizza Co. concept and Denny's Fresh Express," says Tristano. "But innovative fast-casual concepts continue to evolve, adding full-service elements like table service in the evening and quick-service convenience like drive-thrus and delivery, defying the typical fast-casual definition."

As a follow-up to its Foodservice Planning Program study of the fast-casual segment, presented to suppliers in January 2011, Technomic is launching a Fast Casual Insights Group, which will provide ongoing monitoring and growth forecasts. Key components include:

• Qualitative and quantitative operator research to determine how they define "fast casual," the critical strategic issues and competitive threats facing operators, and technology's role in the segment.

• Analysis of Technomic's Consumer Brand Metrics data, outlining the attributes that drive satisfaction at fast-casual concepts and how individual brands rate on these attributes.

• Historic perspectives including sales and unit growth, segment share and analysis of why some concepts have earned ongoing success while others have struggled or ceased operation.

• A predictive view of the future, including growth forecasts through 2020, the concepts and niches that will see long-term success and why.

• The Fast-Casual 400—the most thorough ranking of fast-casual concepts.