How blistering hot is the fast-casual restaurant segment? Maybe as hot as any segment in any industry, as supported by a recent report from Technomic.
The report says fast casual, now about 14 percent of the $223 billion limited-service restaurant, is outpacing growth of other segments. Sales at fast-casual establishments were up 13 percent in 2012 – 16 percent at the largest chains.
And, Technomic predicts, the explosive growth will continue, led by companies such as Panera Bread, La Madeleine and Cheesecake Factory. There’s no stopping it.
The fast casual concept has become so popular, in fact, that companies on either side on the restaurant spectrum – quick service establishments like KFC and casual sit-down eateries like Olive Garden – are tweaking their formulas and doing what Time Magazine called “their best imitation of Panera Bread … at least during lunch hours.”
That means presenting customers with the best of both worlds – affordable, high-quality, healthier food that’s served as quickly as in a fast-food joint. Writes Technomic analyst Darren Tristanto: “Consumers, it seems, expect nothing less.”
‘Fast Casual’ Goes Beyond Menu Choices
But the secret sauce in fast casual goes beyond healthy menu options served quickly. What really attracts customers to fast-casual restaurants like
Jason’s Deli is friendly, fast service – a place where the food is delivered to their table without them having to wait by a counter or flag down a server wandering around the dining room as the food gets cold.
The way fast-casual restaurants achieve this balance is by using modern technology. State-of-the-art devices such as the LRS Table Tracker and Coaster Call are two examples of what a difference technology makes for fast-casual restaurants.
Coaster Call allows guests to get their drinks and find a table while their meal is being prepared. Instead of making them wait at the counter, which causes crowding and confusion, diners can wait comfortably at their tables until their food is ready.
Restaurants that have servers deliver food to the tables, such as Jason’s Deli, benefit from https://www.lrsus.com/table-tracker/Table Tracker, an advanced technology system that gives wait staff the status of each order and which table it needs to be delivered to. When guests place an order, they receive a device that transmits their table location to a display in the kitchen.
The kitchen and wait staff are able to monitor the status of each order and deliver it to the correct table without searching for an identifier on a table. This increases staff efficiency, reduces ticket times and, most importantly, improves the customer experience.
2013 is the year of fast casual, and it’s only going up from here. Fast food restaurants may be trying to share a piece of the pie, but the real success of fast-casual restaurants lies in their knowledge of how diners want to eat and their ability to keep up with dining trends through technology.
Learn More About Collecting and Applying Data to Improve Service
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Skip Cass is the chief executive officer at LRS and an expert in operational efficiency and creating a memorable guest experience.