Increase in Fast Casual Visits Slowing, But Still Higher than Overall Market

Over the past five years, the only restaurant channel to grow its number of visits is the quick service restaurant (QSR) segment, according to a report from The NPD Group.

The market research firm recorded a six percent annual increase in visits to QSR concepts since 2013, a trend driven by higher quality food, better service and larger average check sizes than other fast-food restaurants. To meet customer demand, the number of QSR locations also has steadily risen from 19,231 in 2013 to 25,118 in 2017. The top growing chains in terms of customer visits were Chipotle, Panera, Panda Express and Raising Canes.

Despite that consistent growth, there are some signs of slowdown. Fast casual growth has slowed in the past two quarters. Traffic was up only 4 percent in the quarters ending December 2017 and March 2018, down from 7 percent in the third quarter of 2017. That still compares favorably to total restaurant industry traffic, which was flat in the last quarter of 2017 and first quarter of 2018.

“Fast causal continues to be a bright spot in the U.S. restaurant industry because they are providing consumers exactly what they want,” NPD Food Industry Advisor David Portalatin said. “They offer quick and good service, high-quality food, and a pleasant experience. It’s really the not-so-secret-sauce of success.”