Foodservice Equipment Reports

Fast-Casual Concepts Grew Units 5%, Traffic 6% In Past Year

The growth of fast-casual restaurant concepts continues to dramatically outpace that of all other restaurant segments, according to data from The NPD Group. The upscale limited-service concepts remain a small part of the overall restaurant environment. According to NPD’s ReCount restaurant census for the year ended Sept. 30, 2015, fast-casual units numbered 19,043 out of 343,407 total quick-service units in the U.S., or 5.5%. They are an even smaller part of the total restaurant landscape of 629,488 units. They generate just 7% of quick-service customer counts. Quick-service units, including fast-casual concepts, account for 78% of all restaurant traffic.

Even so, the growth trajectory of fast-casual has been remarkable in recent years. Last year was no different. Fast-casual concepts grew net units by 5% for the year ended in September and customer traffic by 6% for the year ended February 2016. In contrast, the total number of net units in the U.S. declined by 0.6%, while traffic rose 1%.

“There has been significant unit growth in the fast-casual category over the past several years, and it hasn’t reached a saturation point since traffic is still increasing,” said Greg Starzynski, director of product management for NPD Foodservice. “This would indicate there is room for more growth in the category in the foreseeable future.”

The two largest fast-casual chains, Chipotle Mexican Grill with 1,896 units and Panera  Bread with 1,869, both grew their unit counts by 9% last year, NPD said. Among other leading fast-casual chains, Panda Express grew 5% to 1,729 units, Five Guys Burger and Fries’ unit count was up 4% to 1,225 and Firehouse Subs grew units 10% to 925.

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