Posted: Jan 02, 2020
Talk all you want about avocado toast, plant-based meats, small plates and milk alternatives, but the biggest food trend over the past decade was the fast-casual. Nothing had a larger impact on American dining than these counter-service restaurants. They changed the way people ate and how ingredients were sourced at chain restaurants. They also forced the competition to adapt or watch their customer base shrink faster than a cotton shirt in the wash.
Fast-casuals predated the 2010s, of course. Launched in the 1990s with the promise of healthful food prepared with better ingredients than those at fast-food chains, fast-casuals became the darling of the last decade, driven in part by the effects of the Great Recession, skyrocketing rents and rising food costs. The numbers give you a glimpse into their dominance: In 2009, there were about 17,300 fast-casuals in the United States with sales of $19 billion, according the market research firm Technomic. By 2018, the last year for which statistics are available, fast-casuals had more than doubled their locations (34,800) and sales ($47.5 billion).
By Tim Carman
December 31, 2019
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