While many restaurants suffered during the economic slump, fast casual chains prospered. As defined by The NPD Group, fast casual restaurants are upscale quickservice spots that offer more service, higher quality food and cost more than other fast food outlets.
NPD’s CREST, which continually tracks consumer usage of foodservice outlets, discovered substantial growth at fast casual chains such as Chipotle, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Noodles & Company and Panera Bread for the year ending in December 2010.
- Visits to fast casual chains increased by 6%
- Total industry visits declined by 1%
- Traffic to fast casual chains over the last three years has increased by 17%
- Food is a key differentiator at fast casual restaurants. Respondents favor these concepts over QSRs for food quality, freshness of ingredients and availability of healthy options