In June I attended Technomic’s Trends & Directions Conference here in Chicago. Since I’m a foodservice marketing nerd, I love that this conference is all about current trends that are happening right now and their predictions for the rest of the year and beyond.
One trend that really caught my eye was the 2013 fast-casual growth categories. Technomic broke down the fastest growing fast casual chains by unit growth and segment and found that the largest growing segment is “Salad & Healthy.” That means it beat out “Burger,” “Sandwich” and even “Pizza.”
This to me speaks volumes. While we all know that shock value foods are still running rampant (I mean, the Quesarito! Come on Taco Bell – stop tempting me with your delicious combinations!), healthy concepts are leading the way in growth for this year.
This should really come as no surprise as we see quick service and casual restaurants start to open fast casual concepts with a “perceived healthy” theme. For instance, Ponderosa Steakhouse is introducting Bo’s Steak & Grill, whose whole concept direction is “fresh casual” – a term they coined. And interestingly enough, salads are 23% of their menu mix and offer items like quinoa, edamame and kale. They are trying to bring the popular salad bar concept back but with a fast casual feel.
Once popular chain, Sbarro, is also trying to bring a healthy and fresh feel to their new concept Pizza Cucinova, serving up pizzas with a “fresh modern twist.” Tony Roma’s is also opening a fast casual concept in Orlando with open kitchens and locally sourced veggies. These concepts do a great job of having a balance of healthy and splurge items, but with also feeling “fresh” and healthy overall.
Bringing in this concept of fresh and healthy to your own restaurant is easy. It doesn’t have to mean a total overall of your restaurant’s menu! Add a few meals that are under 500 calories and state that on your menu, and see if your diners are biting. If they are, add some more healthy geared meals to your menu. It’s sure to be a hit!