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Blurred lines: fast-casual restaurants claim greater share among limited-service chains

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While fast-food restaurants make up 96 percent of Top 200 Canadian limited-service restaurant (LSR) sales, growing 4.4 percent in 2013, fast-casual growth far outpaced the industry at 13.9 percent. As fast casuals continue to grow and compete, consumers note fewer distinctions between the two segments in some areas—friendly service, taste and flavour of food, cravability and menu variety.

by Technomic Inc.

Consumers say that ambiance enhancements would make them want to visit limited-service restaurants more often. Amenities like loyalty programs or free Wi-Fi could also help get more consumers in the door. Further, young consumers in particular say that delivery service would encourage them to order from limited-service restaurants more frequently.

“The fast-casual sector positioned itself as a high-quality yet affordable middle ground between quick and full service,” said Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic Inc. “Limited-service concepts will need to keep upscaling their dining experience without sacrificing their lower price points or value message. To continue taking share, fast casuals should concentrate on improving speed and convenience via tech innovations like mobile-app or kiosk ordering and payment systems.”

Spotlight on Canadian Limited Service Restaurants

[View larger INFOGRAPHIC: Spotlight on Canadian Limited Service Restaurants]

To help foodservice executives understand the latest consumer behaviours, preferences and attitudes regarding the limited-service restaurant industry, Technomic has published an update of its Canadian Future of LSR: Fast-Food & Fast-Casual Restaurant Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include:

  • Fewer limited-service restaurants customers are cutting back: 30 percent of fast-food patrons (down from 36 percent in 2012) and 33 percent of fast-casual customers (down from 40 percent) cut back on extras to save money.
  • Health is important for LSR occasions: about half of consumers say the availability of healthy options is important at quick-service (49 percent) and fast-casual (54 percent) restaurants.
  • A fifth of consumers (22 percent), and 27 percent of men, call for more adult beverages at fast casuals, while 15 percent (and 21 percent of consumers aged 19-34) would like to see more at fast-food restaurants.