Fast-casual restaurants are gaining popularity in the UK at a faster rate than quick-service restaurants (QSRs), according to new research from foodservice analysts NPD Group.
Sales in fast-casual restaurants grew 2.5% in the year to the end of March 2012, with consumer visits up 3.6%. That compares to +0.9% and +1.6% respectively for QSRs.
Fast-casual restaurants have now build a 3% share of the £49.2bn Uk foodservice market, NPD said, and compound annual growth rate across the past three years in the category is 5.1% in sales and 3.5% in visits.
“Fast casual restaurants that offer consumers a fresh alternative to traditional fast food generally pay greater attention to food quality and service, as well as ambiance, décor and design,” said NPD.
“Chains such as Chipotle, offering Mexican food and Vapiano, with its fresh take on Italian food, epitomise the attributes of fast casual dining. Others include Nandos, where consumers pay for their meals when ordered, enabling them to leave when they choose without waiting for the bill. Food is priced to enable young consumers to dine out.”
NPD said fast-casual is creating a “bridge” between fast food value, with an average spend of £3.47, and full service dining, (£9.46).
Guy Fielding, foodservice director for NPD Group, said: “Fast casual restaurants offer consumers a culinary adventure that is high quality, convenient and affordable. Its strength lies in offering consumers food, service, and design that combines operational excellence with a focus on quality.
“Its success is a clear sign that consumers are willing to pay for ‘menu value,’ and are not solely focused upon ‘value menus’ even in these economically challenging times.
“Fast casual dining may be a new trend in the UK, but other foodservice providers should take note of its performance. In the US, fast casual dining is now four times the size of the fine dining market. Its success in the UK is the beginning of a new way of dining; this is definitely not a blip.”