If the success of 2018 is any indicator, 2019 will be a banner year for food and beverage franchises in the “fast-casual” category.
These types of franchises—which include popular restaurants like Panera and Chipotle—grew by nearly 8% (7.5%) in 2018; more than double the rate of fast-food franchises.
While foot traffic stalls in both the fast-food (e.g. McDonald's) and retail-food outlet (e.g. 7-Eleven) categories, visits to fast-casual establishments have increased over the past five years.
What’s fueling the growth?
Evolving consumer tastes.
More than value and convenience, people want quality and variety, two things fast-casual restaurants do better than any other food and beverage franchise.
Here are four reasons fast-casual franchises continue to expand in 2019…
#1 — Delivery is HOT
Online ordering is hotter than ever, tripling in volume in the past three years, which is why the value of food delivery business is expected to balloon from $35 billion to $365 billion by 2030.
In 2019, fast-casual franchises will continue to get in on the delivery action—increasing partnerships with organizations like GrubHub, DoorDash, Seamless, Postmates, Uber Eats, and others—so they can meet the expectations of consumers.
#2 — Tech everywhere
When it’s time to decide where to eat, convenience may not be the most important thing in the eyes of the modern diner, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important at all. Which is why fast-casual franchises are investing in new tools and technologies (automated kiosks, mobile apps, digital menus, etc.) that increase convenience for diners. In 2019, expect fast-casual restaurants to continue their expansion thanks to their commitment to quality and convenience.
#3 — Millennials are big fans
Millennials love fast-casual restaurants, and that love isn’t going anywhere in 2019.
Not only do they outspend Baby Boomers at restaurants despite having 20% less take-home income, they also spend 53% of their weekly food budget ($65) away from home.
Additionally, Millennials are a socially-conscious generation that values corporate responsibility, and no segment of the franchise-based food and beverage industry has adapted to those expectations like fast-casual restaurants. Franchises like Jimmy John’s (take a look at this!) Chipotle and Blaze Pizza (the fastest-growing franchise of all time) appeal to Millennials by using high-quality ingredients, free from additives, chemicals, or industrial production.
#4 — Superfoods
Diners want to see higher-quality options on restaurant menus, but they don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it—that’s where fast-casual restaurants come in.
Due to their “sit-down” and “made-to-order” environment, fast-casual restaurants are better positioned to incorporate superfoods (salmon, blueberries, chia seeds, etc.) into their menus than fast-food restaurants and retail food outlets, and they’ll continue to be better positioned into 2019.
Read more about food trends and how digital marketing can help fast-casuals attract more customers in our report on the Food & Beverage Industry in 2019.