European Fast Casual is on the Rise

By Darren Tristano, Foodable Industry Expert

In the second in a three-part series on the fast casual market in Europe, Darren Tristano offers a look at the segment beyond the United Kingdom.

Technomic research has found that the fast casual market in Europe is small, but growing and that it has big potential. Like the consumers in America and the U.K., Western Europeans are increasingly seeking high-quality food and experiences that don’t skimp on convenience or quality.

The largest restaurant markets today are Germany and France, so it’s no surprise to find fast casual activity in those countries. While we also see movement in countries like Italy, Greece and Spain. Lets  look at some of the players in the leading markets.

Fast Casual in Germany

Technomic tracks more than a dozen fast casual chains in Germany. The segment leader is a familiar name– Vapiano, which had 62 restaurants in the country at the year-end, a number that was up 13% from 2012. The upscale concept combines made-to-order Italian fare, prepared exhibition-style at several food stations, with a tech-savvy ordering system that is anchored around plastic chip-cards embedded with customers’ order information. Food is served in contemporary spaces that feature organic accents, such as live potted trees. Vapiano International LLC operates the chain’s outposts in Germany.

Vapiano | CREDIT: INSTAGRAM

Vapiano | CREDIT: INSTAGRAM

 Marché | CREDIT: Facebook

 Marché | CREDIT: Facebook

von Allwörden | CREDIT: Flickr

von Allwörden | CREDIT: Flickr

Marché Restaurant is a fast casual chain specializing in made-to-order pastas, pizzas, salads, sandwiches and other fare. It offers a variety of fresh, natural, healthy and seasonal foods in a market-style atmosphere. The majority of the chain’s German units operate as fast casual bistro restaurants, but some also incorporate an onsite bakery. Marche International Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Movenpick Holding Ltd. in Switzerland, operates and franchises the concept.

von Allwörden is a fast casual bakery-café chain in Northern Germany. The concept specializes in classic German baked goods and sandwiches that appeal to a wide range of customers. A long counter topped with a glass display case serves as a focal point. Takeaway service is offered and some locations provide limited seating. The parent company H. von Allwörden is privately owned.

Fast Casual in France

In France, the fast casual segment is dominated by bakery-cafes and Italian specialists.

PAUL is a fast casual bakery concept best known for its collection of made-from-scratch breads with no artificial additives or preservatives. Other menu items include pastries, cakes, croissants, quiches, tarts and crêpes; larger units offer breakfast, lunch and tea menus. PAUL units are mainly inline or kiosk structures located in city centers, shopping malls, railway stations and airports. Some larger units feature tea rooms. The Holder Group oversees the PAUL chain in addition to the Chateau Blanc, Ladurée, Manufacture du Pain, Panetude and Saint Preux bakery-focused concepts. The Holder Group has bread and pastry making and restaurant operations in 24 countries. Other bakery café competitors include Histoire de Pains and Le Moulin De Paiou.

The leader among the Italian fast casual chains is Mezzo di Pasta, with more than 13 restaurants throughout Europe, with the vast majority in France. The concept offers fresh pasta dishes prepared in front of customers. Par-cooked pasta is quickly finished, then topped with choice of fresh sauces. Takeaway guests appreciate the insulated packaging, which keeps their food hot. Units range from tiny takeout-only urban storefronts to larger restaurants with dining rooms; all have minimal, contemporary décor. Italian fast casual concepts in France also include Francesca and Nooi.

We expect the fast casual market in France and Germany, as well as other Western European countries, to continue to grow as these and other fast casual concepts—including those imported from the U.S.—expand to fill the demands of busy, quality seeking consumers.