Casual dining versus quick-service in US restaurant challenge, Technomic findings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 12th February 2013

While customer enthusiasm is “up” in the United States for casual dining, a new Technomic report has found that new challenges are emerging for casual-dining operators.

As the lines continue to blur between limited-service fast-casual restaurants and full-service casual-dining chains, consumer expectations are shifting “as customers continue to trade-up and trade-down” across the casual-dining spectrum.

The Technomic report on the future of casual dining in the United States found that in an effort to compete with quick-service restaurants, leading US fast-casual brands have expanded breakfast offerings by 31 per cent since 2011. However, the report also found that only 31 percent of leading fast-casual restaurants in the US offer breakfast.

Technomic found that a third of US consumers are ordering from the “healthy menu” more often than they did a year ago at fast casual (36 per cent) and traditional (34 per cent) casual-dining restaurants, but just 27 per cent of consumers say the same for upscale casual-dining restaurants.

The report also showed that compared to two years ago, consumers today are more likely to visit casual-dining restaurants for a variety of occasions—including, but not limited to, routine lunches, everyday occasions, special occasions and meals with colleagues and family members.

Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic said that “expectations are changing” for the casual-dining experience in the United States.

“Whether their needs are driven by price, food quality, overall value or simply the dining experience itself, operators need to know how to stay competitive,” Mr Tristano said.

US consumers are "trading up and down" the casual dining spectrum according to Technomic.