Food Attitudes Are Changing The Face of The Casual Dining Industry

December 5, 2016

Food Attitudes Are Changing The Face Of The Casual Dining Industry

In an innovative and very competitive restaurant industry, the introduction of new concepts in food to please diners is an ongoing process. Five years ago, the fast-food industry was quite different than what it is today, but is now undergoing a metamorphosis. The Five Guys franchise was at that time mainly a regional operator and the “better burger” had yet to launch. Chipotle had begun to make news with its commitment to sustainable food, plus eco-friendly packaging was starting to make waves and coffee was grabbing more of the limelight.

However, that scenario is no longer relevant. Five Guys, with its focus on producing food with quality ingredients and attention to detail, has become a prominent national and international fast-food business and introduced the “better burger” category. Chipotle has become a major supporter of locally grown food, inspiring others to overhaul their menus. The promotion of greener packaging and special varieties of coffee are now a given at many companies. Likewise, today’s up and coming restaurants could be the big names of tomorrow, their growth stimulated by a new set of patrons. With today’s customer looking for a different dining experience, the following food items are predicted to profit the most during the next five years.

The Creation of the Eco-Burger or “Better Burger” This is an attempt to produce healthier options for those trying to adopt a more nutritious eating regimen. In a recent article in The New York Times, it was reported that Americans are the biggest meat eaters on the planet. However, according to the Vice President of market intelligence for a Chicago-based marketing agency, that situation is starting to change. She added that the “Meatless Mondays” movement plus a commitment to eating less meat will permanently change the face of the quick-service burger industry, within five years.

Although the sale of meat is on the decline, no one is under the impression that burgers will disappear off the menu, but instead said that they will evolve. Although the idea of a “better burger” is already well talked about in the fast-food system, the prospect of a “cleaner burger” is very likely. Epic Burger, a chain based in Chicago, uniquely promotes their claim of purity on their website as, “Our menu is all about what is NOT on it”, and explains what is missing such as, “hormones, antibiotics, trans fats, food coloring, preservatives, and yellow mustard”. Even chains like Shake Shack and Burgerville make eco-friendly products an essential part of their brand identity.

Asian Food Concepts Despite China and India being the most highly populated countries in the world, the introduction of Asian food into the casual dining industry in America has been limited. But change is on its way. According to the Director of Foodservice Research for Mintel Menu Insights, the time is ripe for an Asian concept with a mid-market price range and semi-upmarket ambience. He compares it to a similar situation when Chipotle was beginning to become well known a few years ago. At the time, there was a very high-end and low-end for Mexican casual, but Chipotle sort of changed all that by offering something in-between. A situation that Asian food finds itself in now. Again, it is possible that the founder of Chipotle will get their foot in the door first.

As the taste of Asian food becomes more popular, other chains are aiming to be part of the same scenario. Within the next few years, Chutney Joe’s, which serves Indian fast food and has two outlets in Chicago, has plans to expand to other markets via the franchise route. Other businesses that also intend to develop the Asian segment of their varied menu include Noodles & Company, a fast-casual based in Colorado. Customers are definitely trending eastwards and introducing their taste buds to Asian food.

Fresher Ingredients Fresh has been a buzz word for some time, emphasizing the health benefits of including a variety of fruit and vegetables in a balanced diet. Starbucks has always been proactive when it comes to staying ahead of its competitors. Their latest offering, the Evolution Fresh juice bar, is a taste of what we’ll be seeing in 2017. It is a sign that there are more concepts in the pipeline, delivering a key message that it is a “juice and food experience”. The brand was acquired by Starbucks in 2011 and its first store was launched in March. The price for a 16-ounce juice is a hefty $7.99, with the experience being branded as “super-premium”.

Customers are willing to pay more, knowing that what they are doing is for their own good. Although there are other brands on the rise, Jamba Juice remains a leader in the juice race. Beautiful Brands International recently added Roxberry Juice - which has eight stores in two states - to its portfolio. Daily Kitchen & Wellness Bar, which is newly established, also offers fresh juice blends. An important factor that contributes to the new juice frenzy will be offerings on-the-go. Similar to those provided by Evolution Fresh, ready-to-go drinks and food will continue to build in popularity. Because of time constraints, many people make use of the smaller convenience stores for their purchases. Many of these products are doing extremely well in retail stores, which shows there is an opportunity in the market for developing smaller, even faster portions for people who don’t want to sacrifice eating healthy just because they are in a hurry.

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