Home » Chipotle, Panera Bread Lead Fast-Casual Growth

Chipotle, Panera Bread Lead Fast-Casual Growth

Last updated on June 13th, 2024 at 05:08 pm

Fast-casual restaurant chains continue to be on a winning streak, growing both in units and customer visits, according to The NPD Group, a national research and information company.

The number of fast-casual chain restaurants rose by 5 percent to 19,043 total units, based on NPD’s fall 2015 restaurant census, which includes restaurants open as of September 30, 2015. Fast-casual customers increased their visits by 6 percent in the year ended February 2016 compared to a year ago, while total foodservice traffic rose by 1 percent.

The top five fast-casual restaurant chains based on number of units are: Chipotle Mexican Grill, 1,896 units, up 9 percent; Panera Bread, 1,869 units, up 9 percent; Panda Express, 1,729 units, up 5 percent; Five Guys Burgers and Fries, 1,225 units, up 4 percent; and Firehouse Subs, 925 units, up 10 percent.
According to NPD, the fast-casual category is still a relatively small slice of the total foodservice industry. Fast-casual restaurants represent 7 percent of total quick-service visits, which represents 78 percent of total foodservice industry traffic. In units, the fast-casual category is a small portion of the total 343,407 quick-service restaurants in the U.S.

The total U.S. restaurant count decreased slightly (-.6 percent) from a year ago to 629,488 units, based on NPD’s latest census.

“There has been significant unit growth in the fast-casual category over the past several years, and it hasn’t reached a saturation point since traffic is still increasing,” said Greg Starzynski, director of product management at NPD Foodservice. “This would indicate that there is room for more growth for the fast-casual category into the foreseeable future.”


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The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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