Feb 12th, 2017, 05:46 PM

Fast-Casual Dining

By Claudia Rosha
Image credit: techcrunch.com
Healthy, fast and delicious, fast-casual dining has the potential to reinvent "fast food."

When you think of "fast food" McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's come to mind. The grease and salt usually leave you with a fast food hangover the following day, but "fast casual dining" is changing that.

According to The Balance, fast-casual dining offers the ease and convenience of fast food with a healthier menu to be enjoyed in an inviting sit-down atmosphere. This trend started in the U.S. and now has made it across the pond to Europe. Fast-casual dining helps consumers be cautious of what they eating while enjoying a meal in a relaxed setting: it is the best of both worlds. 

Health Benefits

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It is no surprise that Americans have become more conscious of the food they are consuming. Restaurants and markets offer healthier food options such as gluten-free and organic, but this new concept of fast-casual is becoming a dominant force in the American restaurant industry.

In my opinion, it is every American’s ideal of healthy eating, which is why there has become such a buzz around this idea. I have been a consumer of fast-casual dining for around two years as it allows me to eat a well-balanced meal with my friends in a chill atmosphere. Publications such as Food and Nutrition agree, saying this new concept is a trend for “transparency in ingredients, a desire to be more socially responsible, and a commitment to source local food that is often organic, grass-fed and antibiotic- and hormone-free.”

Fast-Casual Industry in America 

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American fast-casual restaurants, such as Sweetgreen (a $95 million salad chain), are one of the leaders in this industry and are setting the bar high for newcomers. With 31 restaurants across the country, Sweetgreen has a wide variety of salads containing seasonal vegetables, quinoa, and other healthy ingredients all sourced from organic farms. They have a selection of already made salads or you can customize your own salad to your liking. According to Business Insider, Sweetgreen has “captured the imagination of health-conscious urbanites who are wary of what they eat.” From personal experience, expect a line out the door during busy hours but endure the wait, in the end it is worth it. 

Fast-Casual Industry in Europe 

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This phenomenon is not only in America, however. This industry is slowly but surely making its way abroad as well. People all over the world are wanting healthier and more casual eating experiences and are beginning to make this transition. The largest growing markets of fast casual overseas is France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. According to Euromonitor International, the growth rate of international markets of fast casual in Europe over the past 5 years is about 2 to 8 percent.

However, Europe takes a slightly different approach on fast casual. France in particular is gaining success in this industry with fast-casual bakery-cafés. One example is PAUL, a bakery chain that makes bread from scratch using no artificial additives or preservatives. I love to stop at a bakery-cafés when I am out and about, the seated area allows me a break while I can eat consciously and know all the ingredients in my food. While the fast-casual industry is not as dominant in Europe as it is in the United States, we could potentially see growth in these markets as it becomes more and more successful in the states.

Potential of Fast-Casual Dining 

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Whether you are in Paris, L.A., or London, fast-casual dining is dominating the industry. The customer satisfaction of conscious consuming mixed with an inviting experience is sure to be a worldwide success sooner than later. Many of the restaurants cater to the popularity of locally sourced products which helps grow local communities as well as promote better food standards. Corporate Watch explains that local sourcing food can have lasting economic benefits, cultural benefits, and environmental benefits.

The fast-casual eating concept is capturing a wide range of consumers who are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of eating habits and the efficiency of restaurants. This approach has potential to become a worldwide phenomenon that will change the way we characterize “fast food."