In the third week of March, when the coronavirus pandemic first started changing day-to-day life, we observed in this market research blog that these changes would likely impact QSRs more than any other segment. Their model was best suited for the pandemic’s attendant push to off-premise dining and their price point was right for a recession, they just had to figure out how to get people enrolled in their mobile apps and streamline their locations for omnichannel operations.
Last week in the parking lot of our local McDonald’s, I had my first Happy Meal in over twenty years (four-piece McNuggets, fries, and a Sprite). My boyfriend had found an online coupon, you see, which gave us a kid’s meal with the purchase of an extra value meal. I didn’t want to cook, he didn’t want to go through the hassle and wait for delivery, and we didn’t want to spend too much money.
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.
The Cheesecake Factory, everybody’s favorite ‘everything under the sun’ casual dine-in, is going fast casual, rolling out a piloted pan-Asian fast casual concept in a tony Los Angeles suburb. The new location, called the Social Monk (more on the name and the monk later) will look to capitalize on food service and fast casual trends, and when an avowed leader of the casual dine-in segment is jumping into the fast casual life raft, it merits some contemplation (yes, that is a monk joke).