2020 Future of Fast Casual Report

Which brands and categories are best positioned to recover after the pandemic?


A decade ago, fast casual underwent a genesis. Once a niche category with a few players spread across a handful of cuisines—say, Chipotle and Baja Fresh covering Mexican and Panera Bread and Corner Bakery tackling the bakery-café space—fast casual suddenly became the hottest thing in foodservice. The Great Recession pushed casual customers to trade down, while the rise in foodieism drove young consumers—particularly millennials—to seek out higher-quality eats.

Fast casual stood right at the intersection of value and quality, and for the last 10 years has filled in every corner of the U.S. with every manner of food served quickly and affordably.

But, just like any other trend, fast casual has also worn thin on some. And with mobile ordering and off-premises experiences giving quick-service chains a boost in competition for market share, could it be that fast casual isn’t the darling it once was? 2020 Future of Fast Casual Study – Final Tristano, CEO of FoodserviceResults, says that, prior to the coronavirus, the fast-casual segment was experiencing lower growth rates compared with years past, especially as oversaturation in restaurants created difficulty for expanding chains to find opportunities to drive unit volumes necessary to building sustainable restaurants.

QSR partnered with Tristano in this first-ever Future of Fast Casual Report, which explores consumer sentiment toward the fast-casual industry prior to the coronavirus outbreak. The report offers valuable insights into customer preferences and ordering habits within fast casual. And while the pandemic and resulting economic downturn will drastically alter the restaurant landscape, the report’s findings offer a glimpse at what customers wanted from their favorite restaurants before the coronavirus—and what they will likely want once it’s in the rearview mirror.

“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.”

Here, we’ve dug deeper into six menu categories within the fast-casual space to explore how brands were innovating—pre-coronavirus—in an effort to rise above the competition. Take a glimpse at some of the data below, and click on the category links to get a deeper dive into the state of fast casual, including insights from Tristano on each of the six categories.

Future of Fast Casual 2020 Cover pageFor more information about purchasing the full report, which includes an 85-slide deck and a 20-page PDF appendix of Top 250 rankings, please contact Greg Sanders at Greg@FoodNewsMedia.com.


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