'Fast Casual Nation: Changing the Way America Eats' Documentary Now Available On Demand

The way America eats is changing. We want better options. We want better ingredients. We want better sourcing. We want better experiences. We want food with a story — and we want it fast. The last four decades of fast food is fading and now we're making room for a new culture of good food: fast casual. And what is fast casual?

Find out in "Fast Casual Nation: Changing the Way America Eats." This full-length documentary, which has been 10 years in the making and which first premiered in 2015 during the National Restaurant Association Show, is now available for streaming through Vimeo On Demand and soon to be available on Netflix.

Follow Paul Barron, the pioneer who coined the term "fast casual" in 1993, as he travels around the country to share plates with the greats. Featuring Smashburger Cofounder Tom Ryan, Firehouse Subs CEO Don Fox, Modern Market Founder Anthony Pigliacampo, Panera Bread Founder Ron Shaich, and many others, dig into the stories of the iconic leaders and game-changers who are transforming the movement of our restaurants and the future of our food.

"My advice for people getting into the business is fast casual is clearly where one should expect to find the energy, the growth, and quite frankly, the ability to find what the next couple of generations are going to be eating on an everyday basis," Ryan said in the film. "By consequence of that everyday basis, it's where the biggest part of our business is going to grow to."

Fast casual — the societal shift and evolution from quick-service to high-quality, efficient, better-for-you, and better-for-the-environment ingredients — is the David vs. Goliath story of food. From Miami, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., to the Pacific Coasts of San Francisco, and all the foodie gems in between, this is documentary is more than exclusive interviews with top chefs and restaurateurs. "Fast Casual Nation" is our chance to change food for the better.

"I think the story shows the entrepreneurial nature of the restaurant industry and how consumers are driving change. There is a little something for everyone, whether you are in the industry and want to hear from your peers...or you just love food," film director Nathan Mikita said. "My hope is that you walk away with an education on how the restaurant industry has shifted, and that as consumers, we have a voice — we just need to choose where to put that capital."

Often times, we only see the rotten stories of foodservice: the inhumane, the unhealthy, and the distasteful. "Fast Casual Nation" is here to prove the foodservice industry is one of advancement and one of renewal, and that foodservice is not just filled with the bad apples we see dominating the food documentary scene.

"'Fast Casual Nation' is the first of many restaurant genre films that we [Foodable Network] are launching this year and next, as the need need for great stories about our industry is a huge injustice to the restaurant industry," Foodable founder, film writer, and executive producer Paul Barron said. "Our mission here at Foodable Network is to change that public perception that our industry is full of bad actors."

"'Fast Casual Nation' has been a dream of mine since I launched Fastcasual.com in the mid-90s, and even more so since the publishing of my book, 'The Chipotle Effect," he continued. "The full story is now in place. This documentary is really the first chronology of some of the greatest innovators our business has ever known. This is your chance, as a viewer, to become part of the revolution."

Smashburger Cracks the Code on Menu Development

Smashburger Cracks the Code on Menu Development

Menu development has become one of the most important operational aspects for fast-casual restaurants. But between sourcing consistent ingredients on a scalable level and ensuring top-notch distributors, it takes time, effort, and experience to do so efficiently.

So, we packed our bags for Denver and set out to talk to one of the pioneers of fast casual, who has been in the trenches of menu development for a long time: Tom Ryan, the chief concept officer at Smashburger, a concept that now boasts 350 locations around the world.

According to Ryan, menu development is a huge standout for consumers as their dining expectations evolve. “Food is becoming more and more topical; it’s becoming more and more integrated into people’s lifestyle, both at home and eating out,” he says. “And the demand of those customers and their discrimination is causing everybody in the industry to kind of up their game.”

By utilizing consistent, high-quality distributors, Ryan says Smashburger employees are able to focus more time on customer service and “smashing burgers perfect every time,” and less time being pressured to perform more and more internal prep.

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On Foodable Feature: Burger Tour

In the premier episode of On Foodable — the Foodable Network's insider show for all things restaurant & hospitality, including insights from the industry's top executives and operators — host and industry guru Paul Barron spends a day with Smashburger Founder Tom Ryan for a proper Miami Burger Tour.

The two bring their expertise together as they review -- and indulge in -- some of the Magic City's best offerings from the better burger segment, including Lokal, Shake Shack and BurgerFi. Watch the full episode as Paul and Tom dive into what it takes to be at the top in fast casual burgers.