In recent years we have seen great changes in our society and food. We seek to have a healthier life and this is reflected in the “real food” movement, as well as in hundreds of “fit” food options that can now be found even in supermarkets. At the same time, we live at a much faster pace, accelerated by the speed of the internet and the constant evolution of technology.
Little by little the market is adapting to these changes and the restaurant sector is not oblivious to this trend. As a consequence, in the last decade the concept of fast casual has become popular: the fast food of the 21st century.
Below we explain what fast casual is and how you can adapt it to a fast food restaurant.
What is fast casual
Fast casual is an intermediary between fast food and casual dining. A restaurant of this type is characterized by not offering table service and has ingredients that are healthier and less processed than the better known fast foods such as McDonald’s and Burger King.
The value of the dishes served in fast casual restaurants is affordable but not as cheap as traditional fast food. In addition, they usually have healthier options and a modern and pleasant decoration.
Its growth around the world
The concept emerged in the 1990s in the United States, but only became popular after 2010. At that time, the economic crisis led thousands of families to change their consumption habits and to opt for cheaper restaurants when going out to dinner.
The success of the fast casual is in understanding and attending to the consumer’s desires through an urban and low cost concept.
The versatility of the fast casual
One of the strengths of fast casual restaurants is the versatility of the dishes they offer. Although they are quick to prepare, they are more elaborate than the items you will find in a traditional fast food. In addition, they have the possibility of customizing different parts of the product. A clear example of this is the poke bowls: practical, made on the spot and with ingredients selected by the customer.
The concept of making sandwiches with the ingredients you want is not new, we already knew it through Subway. But the customization of sandwiches has changed completely with the development of fast casual restaurants. Now it is possible to find more premium ingredients: grilled meats, artisan bread and different types of products such as bao, of Asian origin, or babel, made with pita bread.
Healthy and with vegetarian options
Today we are a society more aware of what it eats and more and more people are opting for healthier choices, with less industrialized foods and fresh ingredients. According to the “Balance of the Distribution and the Great Consumption 2019” presented by the consultant Kantar Worldpanel, the purchase of ecological products grew 20% in the last year.
In addition, the number of followers of vegetarianism and flexitarianism grows year after year in Spain and around the world. Therefore, the demand for plant based dishes has increased in both traditional and fast food restaurants.
The proposal of the fast casual restaurants is very popular with the youngest public, mainly among the millennials. Because it agrees not only with their gastronomic demands, but also with their expectations about the place, its decoration and the aesthetics of the dishes.
More than the taste of the food, the presentation also counts. Therefore, it is normal to see in social networks, mainly in Instagram, photos of Hawaiian pokes and green bowls. These recipes, which can be found in the most fashionable fast casual restaurants in Spain, have super colorful ingredients and different textures in the same dish.
How to adapt the trend to your location
Whether you’re opening a fast casual restaurant or want to renovate your business and create a new menu, there are a few main points to keep in mind.
Nowadays there are multiple options of fast casual restaurants. Hamburger shops, places specialized in sandwiches, healthy food, tacos… the possibilities are endless and the prices are very competitive. Therefore, it is important that you have a well-defined offer, with added value and that it stands out from other establishments.
As in traditional fast food, the menu is one of the main sources of sales. Therefore, it is interesting to create different types of menus and even combos for 2 or more people.
Delivery has always been a strong point of fast food and fast casual restaurants. But with the ease of multiple online ordering and home delivery apps such as Deliveroo and UberEATS, there has been a growth in this method of shopping. Therefore, in addition to working with these apps, it is important to have your own delivery platform integrated into your website and specific communication for this purpose.