Will Denver Remain the Fast Casual Capital of the World?

Will Denver Remain the Fast Casual Capital of the World?

Denver, Colorado is where many of today's most popular fast casual concepts got their start. 

Chipotle opened its first burrito shop in Denver in 1993.  However, the fast casual that started it all, is officially moving its headquarters to Newport Beach, CA and will be closing its home-based office in Denver.

"In order to align the structure around our strategic priorities, we are transforming our culture and building world-class teams to revitalize the brand and enable our long-term success," said Brian Niccol, chief executive officer at Chipotle in a recent press release. "We'll always be proud of our Denver roots where we opened our first restaurant 25 years ago. The consolidation of offices and the move to California will help us drive sustainable growth while continuing to position us well in the competition for top talent."

Chipotle will be transitioning both its Denver and New York offices to the new Newport Beach, CA office and to its existing office in Columbus, OH over the next six months. 

400 of its employees in Denver and New York will either be relocated or offered retention packages. 

But Chipotle isn't the only Denver-founded fast casual to make a recent headquarter move either. 

Another pioneering fast casual chain, Qdoba, which was founded also in the city in 1995 and was acquired by Jack in the Box in 2003, moved its headquarters to San Diego in 2017. 

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Yelp Analysis Shows Strong Consumer Preference for Independent Restaurants

Yelp Analysis Shows Strong Consumer Preference for Independent Restaurants

Tuesday, Yelp released the second edition of their Local Economic Outlook, ranking U.S. metro areas by the pace of growth in their local-business population. Using their deep data stores, Yelp analyzed review ratings for chain and independent restaurants in the 50 metro areas included in the outlook.

The research indicates a shift in consumer perceptions of restaurants. Citing the “celebrity-chef” movement, the data shows a tremendous rise in in independent restaurants over the last 5 years.

Comparatively, fast food restaurants have seen a notable decrease in average ratings, about 16% between 2012 and 2017.

While chain restaurants across the country encounter increasingly choosy diners, independent fast-food and fast-casual restaurants have seen a continued increase in average ratings, improving by 7 percent in the last five years. Ratings for casual-dining chain restaurants held up better, unchanged on average, though they lagged behind their independent competitors, which gained a quarter of a rating point between 2012 and 2017.

“Historically, chain growth has outpaced the broader restaurant industry growth, but in the past three years we’ve actually seen independents and smaller operators outperform chains,” said Dave Henkes, Senior Principal at food industry research firm, Technomic. “It’s clear that consumers are voting with their dollars and are rewarding those restaurants that provide a resonating point of difference in the overall experience.”

It’s important to note that while many people might associate the phrases “fast food” and “fast casual” with chain restaurants, many restaurants that provide that type of experience are independent. The data shows that the type of restaurant (fast food, fast-casual, or casual) is much less important than their appearance as either a chain or independant restaurant.

Visit “Yelp” to see how the 50 major U.S. metro areas compare in local-business success throughout 2017 including which business categories are growing fastest, how restaurants compare and how diners in the metro rate chains and independent restaurants.

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