The Rise of Fast-Casual Dining
COVID-19 wrested deep change from the restaurant industry. Social distance and the rise in contactless dining options have proven very conducive to off-premise solutions. Unfortunately for full-service establishments, fine dining didn’t use delivery and takeout solutions very often. As a result, a lot of them became fast-casual during the pandemic.
What do fast-casual concepts have to offer that other restaurants can’t? Foremost, they’re naturally flexible and thus pliable to new growth methods. Given that COVID-19 laid waste to sit-down seating, the pivot to takeout and delivery is crucial. Regardless, this doesn’t discount the challenges restaurants undergo when they change schedules, shift expectations, and even the store layout to accommodate new sales channels. Nonetheless, the shift to fast-casual is coming.
An Introduction to the Fast-Casual Market
All kinds of markets are struggling right now. Rent and real estate have skyrocketed. The labor market is equally tight, making it difficult for restaurants to pull in the profits they need to contend with rising prices. For starters, workers don’t want to return to a potentially infected environment, especially when some of them make on expanded unemployment benefits than they made on tips alone. You may have to rethink your pay structure to entice people back.
In the meantime, profits remain thin while competition soars. Restaurateurs’ drives haven’t slowed just because of a global pandemic and struggling economy. They still want to realize their dreams. According to Technomic, the fast-casual industry is down 12% because of this pandemic, but compare that to the 37% that full-service has fallen and contextually the shift toward fast-casual makes sense.
Keys to Success
Like any other restaurant, fast-casual concepts have their own particular audiences. As you test out these new revenue streams, assess what customers you’re drawing to your business. Then you can better provide what they’re looking for like value meals or specific menu items. For example, offer family meals for the kids who are learning from home during quarantine, or you could give delivery discount codes after they wrack up a certain amount of rewards points.
Why not try popular industry trends, too? Off-premise and contactless ordering are projected to last past the end of COVID-19. Drive-thru and curbside pickup streams are a great way to push sales without exposing your customers or employees to infection. Some restaurants are getting clever with reopening and integrating contactless solutions.
Check-in with your customers and sales reports to determine what appeals to your audience the best as you shift to fast-casual.
Photo courtesy of eatOS
Build Your Fast-Casual Restaurant
The innovation and growth made possible by fast-casual concepts have assured that the industry will continue thriving for years to come. Business Wire suggests the market will surpass $63B by 2024. Whether you were always a fast-casual business or just decided to make the change after noting the benefits, relying on these trends will make for a lucrative rest of the year.