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Upscale and Young Eating Healthy and Paying More

Upscale and Young Eating Healthy and Paying More

If your medium is menus, Fast Casual restaurants are serving eighteen to 34-year-olds sandwiches and wraps instead of fried foods. In the year ending November 2001, thirty-seven percent of visits to this emerging restaurant category came from the 18-34 demographic group.

Fast Casual is one of the biggest trends in the industry right now. This new category falls between the Quick Service and Full Service segments and is divided into four groups based on food specialty: Bagels, Sandwiches, Mexican Meals/Wraps and Home Meal Replacement. The five markets with the greatest number of Fast Casual units in 2001 were New York City, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth.

In 2001, Fast Casual represented only two percent of total restaurant dollars and traffic counts. However, this category has experienced growth in these areas, as well as unit expansion, that far outpaces other dining alternatives. Operators of traditional Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) have noticed the shift to Fast Casual, and some have opted to re-invent themselves as Fast Casual choices by upgrading their d├ęcor, offering healthier food choices and emphasizing customer service.

According to the Fast Casual Profile, from NPDFoodworld, those consumers with annual household incomes of $75,000 and more actually increased their restaurant visits in 2001. They are interested in higher quality food preparation and taste, healthier food choices, better physical eating conditions and superior customer service, and are willing to pay a higher price. The average guest check at a Fast Casual restaurant for the year ending November 2001 was $5.40, compared to $4.34 at a QSR.

Age of Consumers at Major Restaurant Segments
Percentage of Traffic for Year Ending November 2001

AGEFAST CASUALQSRMIDSCALECASUAL DINING
Under 1815%22%15%17%
18 - 3437%30%22%29%
35 - 4928%28%28%27%
50 - 6414%13%21%17%
65 & over6%6%14%11%
Source: NPDFoodworld.

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