When one of our editors caught a glimpse of the ahi-tuna salad photograph in the May issue, she said it made her hungry. When a colleague told her it was from Newk’s Eatery, her reaction was exactly the expression I’ll bet the brand was going for: “That’s from a fast casual?”
We talk a lot around here about how the lines between foodservice segments and categories are blurring. As part of a media company whose umbrella of products includes c-stores, noncommercial operations (hospitals, colleges and universities, senior-living communities, etc.) and restaurants, we see it every day. And its a recurring theme as we report on the new developments in the restaurant industry every month: Casual dining is borrowing from limited service and upping its takeout game; fast-casual dining is borrowing from full service with higher-end preparations and high-touch hospitality; and pretty much everyone is “borrowing” pretty much everything from Chipotle.
At no point in the year is that phenomenon more evident than when we compile our annual “10 groundbreaking concepts” article. Looking at the restaurants we feature this time, you’d be hard-pressed to use a single adjective to describe any of them, let alone most new restaurants rolling out today. Butcher-restaurant hybrids, “grocerants” or QSR-plus—before you know it, we’ll be talking about the next hot “grocermarketeatertainerant.”
The blending of channels and genres is happening in all kinds of businesses—including our own. As journalists, the lines in our field are blurring, as well. As we roll out the new iteration of our website RestaurantBusinessOnline.com this month, it becomes even more clear that we no longer can accurately define ourselves as digital writers or print journalists. We’re simply journalists. The nature of the news we’re reporting is what determines whether it lives online or on the pages of the magazine or is delivered from the stage of a conference.
It’s the same with restaurants. We’re not far off from a time when it will be less important whether you’re a fast casual or a polished casual or “supercalifragi-casual.” The decor and the quality of the food won’t be determined by whether you’re in Las Vegas, on a college campus or in an airport. At some point, they’re all simply restaurants, all with the same goal of providing warm hospitality, exceptional service and delicious—even awe-inspiring—food.