If you are familiar with the restaurant industry, it’s likely you’ve heard the term fast casual bantered about. This restaurant concept – a mash-up of fast food and casual dining – has been one of the strongest segments in the restaurant industry over the past decade. It continues to thrive, despite the recession and it continues to evolve to fit customer’s needs and preferences.
The Definition of Fast Casual
By definition a fast-casual restaurant offers the ease and convenience of fast food, but with a more inviting sit-down atmosphere. The menu consists of better quality ingredients that can be found at most fast food establishments.
Chain restaurants like Panera Bread, Red Brick Pizza and Newk’s are all fast causal concepts. Customers order off a menu board, just like at McDonald's or Burger King, then sit down and enjoy their meal in a leisurely fashion, similar to dining at Applebee’s or 99 Restaurant.
Fast Casual Restaurants Are More Expensive
Yes. Zaxby’s, a fast-casual chain out of the southeast and Texas, the average check is $9.81. Compare this to the average fast food check, which hovers between $5.00 to $7.00. One of the reason’s Fast Casual has grown rapidly over the past decade is that customers are willing to pay more money for better quality food. This is driven in part by health-conscious consumers who are much more aware of the nutrition of the food available at restaurants.
Customers are willing to pay more for food they think is healthier - up to a point. According to QSR, “…consumers believe the “optimal” price for a fast-casual lunch is between $7 and $7.60. Consumers are willing to pay above $7.60, but say that once the lunch price goes north of roughly $10, they will go somewhere else for their meal.”
Opening a Fast Casual Restaurant
If you want to open a franchise of fast-casual restaurants, be prepared to pay. A lot. Newk’s Eatery, a small franchise with locations throughout the Southeast require franchise owners to invest between $754,000 to $1,054,500. If you are considered opening an independent restaurant with a fast-casual theme, you need to start with the basics: a menu, a good location, commercial equipment, financing.
Fast Casual Dining and Location
If there are already several big-name chain restaurants, it may be harder to set up shop. A population base study can help you identify if a fast casual restaurant (or any type of restaurant, for that matter) will have enough people with enough expendable income to support it.
There are a couple of ways to figure out the population base of an area. One is to do a site survey. Big chains and corporations routinely conduct some type of site survey before they begin building. Because a site survey can cost as much as $25,000 or more, it usually is not an option for a person starting an independent restaurant.
If you don’t have several thousand dollars sitting idyll in your bank account for a site survey, don’t despair! There are several ways to figure out the population of a particular area, and most of the information is free. Take advantage of local government reports, speak with a representative from the Small Business Administration (SBA), or visit the nearest economic growth council for information on local employment and population data.
Keep in mind, if you are considering opening a restaurant, chances are you enjoy eating out. What types of restaurants do you enjoy dining at? If you don’t enjoy eating at a fast casual establishment, it may not be the best concept for you. No matter what restaurant concept you decide on, it should have great food, customer service, and a clean and inviting atmosphere.