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What’s Ahead for Fast-Casual Restaurants

The fast-casual segment experienced a consecutive year of single-digit sales growth in 2017, according to Technomic’s Top 250 Fast-Casual Chain Restaurant Report. Unit growth decreased for the third consecutive year, dropping to 6.1% in 2017 from 9.8% in 2015. Despite being the smallest fast-casual menu category by sales, the pizza segment continued to grow the most, with a 27.3% year-over-year increase, while chicken was the most popular protein.

Fast-casual chains with triple-digit unit growth included Corelife Eatery and Wahlburgers.

As the U.S. market becomes more crowded, many of these restaurants will look internationally to further bolster their brand, Technomic reports. Unpenetrated global markets include Australia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

The fast-casual segment will expand its focus on clean, earth-friendly foods to align with consumers’ growing concerns. Additionally, Middle Eastern and other ethnic flavors and ingredients will thrive in the coming year.  

For the full story, go to this week’s Food Institute Report.