Fast Casual Continues Growth Leadership

Fast Casual Continues Growth Leadership
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Fast-casual restaurants represent just 7% of QSR visits. The segment’s 19,043 units account for less than .03% of the total U.S. restaurants (629,488). But fast-casual chain restaurants account for more than their share of growth. According to new data from The NPD Group, fast-casual chain restaurant locations increased in number by 5% during the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2015, while the overall U.S. restaurant count declined by almost 1%.

Similarly, fast-casual customer traffic was up 6% during that period, while total foodservice traffic was up just 1%.

NPD identifies the five largest (in units) fast-casual chains as Chipotle (1,896 locations), Panera Bread (1,869), Panda Express (1,729), Five Guys Burgers and Fries (1,225) and Firehouse Subs (925). It’s difficult to strictly define “fast casual,” but I’d say that if Firehouse Subs, a counter-service operation, is included, Subway, Jersey Mike’s and Arby’s should be there as well.

Five Guys


The Big Boy chain created a double-decker burger of that name in 1937, long before the first McDonald’s opened. That sandwich has always been its signature, but now, in the era f “better burgers,” the Frisch’s Big Boy wing of the chain (begun in 1951 by Bob’s Big Boy franchisee Dave Frisch) from has added a new line of premium burgers.

The new Primetime Burgers—with which Frisch’s unfortunately uses the marketing-speak cliché “hand-crafted”—are available in BLT Cheeseburger, Mushroom and Swiss, or Classic Cheeseburger varieties. The burgers are served on buttered, grilled brioche buns.

Frisch's Big Boy

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