Story By: Megan Anderson, Staff Writer
Fast, cheap, and delicious is the wave of the future for the restaurant industry, with fast casual restaurants skyrocketing in popularity.
The fast casual industry has grown by over 550% since 1999, according to Euromonitor. These restaurants are an intermediate level dining establishment between fast food and casual dining where full table service is not offered, but higher quality, customizable meals usually are. Over the last decade, these restaurants have been rising in popularity and changing the restaurant game, largely thanks to millennials.
According to Business Insider, millennials make up over 50 percent of fast casual customers, even when they only make up only 31 percent of the surveyed group. Fast casual restaurant owners are certainly aware of this, with the areas around colleges and college towns becoming hotbeds for the trend.
People like Nicole Pacer, are pleased with that. “I’d rather eat Panera or Chipotle because it’s healthier compared to McDonalds, which makes me feel like crap afterwards.” says Pacer.
Wright State University students are certainly benefiting, with newer fast casual ventures, like RapidFire Pizza and Piada opening near campus, in addition to staples of the fast casual genre like the ones Pacer mentioned.
College students are often on a limited budget and so it’s assumed they would choose the cheapest option, but that’s not always the case. While they may not always be willing to pay for a full sit down restaurant, they don’t mind paying a little extra for better food.
“It just depends on the quality of the food. I think you get more for your money [with fast casual food],” said Wright State student, Hannah Westerbeck.
And while a large part of the appeal is certainly tied to getting the best “bang for your buck,” there are other typical characteristics of the fast casual trend that also play into millennial priorities. Morgan Stanley found that young people want foods that are "fresh, less processed and [have] fewer artificial ingredients.” Fast casual restaurants have pushed a shift towards healthy, clean food.
Chipotle has based a large part of their marketing on their non-GMO ingredients. Even pizza chains, like Blaze Pizza, let customers choose which ingredients go into their meal and have nutrition calculators available on their websites. Both allow customers to eat out while maintaining a degree of control over their diet.
"[It] can be more expensive than, like McDonalds and Wendy’s, but I think especially if you live in the dorms, you don’t have home cooked meals a lot and it’s hard to eat healthy." said Pacer. "So you’d rather choose healthier options when you go out to eat."
Where do you most frequently eat?
Rapid Fired Pizza Logo from rapidfiredpizza.com
Chart from Morgan Stanley.
Story Edited By: General Assignment Editor Julian Anguiano