Foodservice Equipment Reports

Growth Of Fast Casual Far Outpaced Industry Last Year, NPD Data Shows

The growth trajectory of the fast-casual segment is truly quite remarkable, especially given an era of slow or flat growth in traffic and sales for most of the industry. New data from The NPD Group’s CREST studies released Feb. 5 show the segment grew traffic 6% in 2013 while spending at such concepts spiked 10%. This compares with flat traffic growth for the industry as a whole last year and for the quick-service segment of which fast casual is a part. Consumer spending at all restaurants was up only 2%.

NPD noted that unit expansion last year was a significant contributor to the category’s growth. According to NPD’s Fall 2013 ReCount census, the segment grew total units 6% during the previous 12 months for a total of 16,215 restaurants.

“Overall, restaurant customers are trading down, foregoing some of their visits to full-service places while increasing the number of visits made to fast-casual restaurants,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. But it’s clear fast casual is also stealing share from traditional QSRs and midscale concepts, too.

CREST data, based on consumer journals of foodservice activity, pegged the fast-casual check average at $7.40 last year. This is significantly lower than the full-service average check of $13.66 and more than $2 higher than the traditional QSR average of $5.30. Consumers apparently believe the premium over QSR prices is worth what they perceive as the enhanced service and better food quality of fast-casual concepts.

Information on NPD’s myriad research products is available at npd.com.

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