Fast Casual Set for Another Growth Explosion

By Paul Barron, CEO/Founder of DigitalCoCo, Foodable WebTV & the Restaurant Social Media Index

Over the past three years, we have been developing a new concept in media for the restaurant and hospitality industry called This is a culmination of reformatting the way media is done, with a connection to operators and consumers worldwide via digital and social integration blended with video, web and social content. With our proprietary platform in the RSMI nearing 80 million restaurant operators and consumers worldwide, the model is beginning to reveal some amazing trends in the industry.

Fast Casual was always a niche segment in the ’90s and early 2000s, but became market-aware in 2005, when I started the Fast Casual Summit and Fast Casual Industry Council. This has kept me very close to the industry and continues to drive our awareness of the expansion of Fast Casual with shows like Fast Casual Nation – now going on its third season – and Fast Casual Trends TV, which is closely tied to the Fast Casual Trends and Direction Conference supported by the National Restaurant Association.

Shake Shack  | Foodable WebTV Network

Shake Shack | Foodable WebTV Network

Cava Mezze Grill  | Foodable WebTV Network

Cava Mezze Grill | Foodable WebTV Network

Pitfire Pizza  | Foodable WebTV Network

Pitfire Pizza | Foodable WebTV Network

Pincho Factory  | Foodable WebTV Network

Pincho Factory | Foodable WebTV Network

What we have uncovered over the past three years of analysis is the expansion of the Fast Casual segment entering a new era of super quality product and service that are transporting the segment to a new place in the hearts of the global food consumer. Fast Casual is really becoming something very different than the highly recognized leaders of the segment, like Chipotle and Panera. Because of this, Fast Casual Nation continues to uncover some of the most amazing concepts that are setting an entirely new playing field for the business. Social, sourcing and technology are leading the charge in the innovation department, and are beginning to define what the future of this segment is all about. A new mindset in leadership is defining what this segment could become in the next few years.

Data shows that the Fast Casual X consumer is eating out at an alarming rate of frequency while other segments are losing ground to “Food Away From Home.” In fact, there has been an 83% shift in frequency in the brands that define this new area of fast casual. We have developed a new segment breakout that allows us to analyze more than 700 Fast Casual brands and create a new subset of categories that allows us to analyze how these brands innovate and connect to consumers.

Soon, we will be launching Fast Casual X, a new segment on the Foodable WebTV Network that will focus on some of these amazing people, ideas, and, most of all, the consumers’ tenacious desire to push this segment to new heights.