The rise of fresh-casual

Restaurant retail is in the midst of a revolution.
According to the Urban Land Institute, one of the key factors driving traffic at retail is the rise of new food concepts, which account for nearly 50% of shopping center growth nationally. The first volleys of this revolution were fired by a spate of new fast-casual concepts, but as the movement gains momentum, it is evolving from fast-casual to fresh-casual.
Fresh-casual chains focus on chef-driven food options, an elevated service experience for customers, high-quality design and décor, and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. These establishments differ from fresh casual in several ways.
• Fast-casual concepts retain a link to the quick-service model. The dining experience begins and ends at the counter, where customers order and pick up their food.
• Fresh-casual eateries, meanwhile, are more service-oriented. While fast-casual restaurants deliver higher-quality food than traditional QSRs, they don’t compare to fresh-casuals that prioritize fresh and even organic ingredients.
• A fast-casual restaurant will typically feature generic displays and promotional materials. A fresh-casual environment will showcase custom artwork and unique fixtures.
Millennials are the primary drivers of the fresh-casual trend. Compared to baby boomers, the younger generation places a higher value on fresh ingredients, customizable food, and aesthetics. Plus, they just eat out more. A survey by Morgan Stanley Research found that 53% of millennials eat out at least once a week, compared with 43% of the rest of the population. Because millennials tend to throng to urban areas, cities serve as the hot-beds for fresh-casual concepts.
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