This last month, after a four-year respite, I once again became a vegetarian. But do not fear, dear readers, my reasons are my own and I am not here to preach—feel free to chow down on a chorizo and potato breakfast burrito as you read this because there is no judgement here. However, do spare a thought for my man, who was seduced by my posole and Sourdough Nick cheeseburgers, but now finds blocks of tofu where his tri-tip used to be.
McDonald’s is finally giving into the meatless moment, announcing their plan to slowly roll out a vegan patty, the McPlant, over the course of 2021. For industry watchers, this is not unexpected--vegan options have gone from niche to mainstream and several of McDonald’s biggest competitors have already added Beyond and Impossible patties to their menus.
Urban Plates--the freshness-forward, Cardiff, CA based restaurant chain serving sandwiches, salads, and braises in a made-to-order cafeteria format since its opening in 2011--is in the middle of a carefully-executed expansion strategy that will see it triple its store count by 2023.
Why has the chain succeeded where so many other similar concepts have failed? According to co-founder and CEO Sadar Nadhir, "Urban Plates is changing the way America eats. Guests desire affordable high-quality, customizable meals served in a convenient yet inviting atmosphere with fine-dining hospitality.” Though Nadhir may be inclined to exaggerate for obvious reasons, it's hard to argue with his restaurants’ successes.
Yet fast casual remains a singular force in food service, one that continues to dominate the cultural landscape. So, a little more than a decade into its reign, we thought we’d check in on the industry: what do consumers want from a fast casual experience, what are they actually getting, and how can operators start to bridge the difference? What concepts most excite consumers, which seem passé at this point, and what can QSR and casual dining operators learn from all of this? These are some of the questions we set out to answer in our 2019 Fast Casual Food Industry Report.