Friday, August 16, 2013

Fast Casual Restaurants The Rush for Sameness

Has the sun has set on golden era of the restaurant industry? Legacy restaurant operators and analyst continue to use outdated metrics and look at the industry from inside out.  They see the restaurant industry as it once was.  They do not see it as it will be five years from now.  They continue to see the glass 95% full, spinning stories to Wall-Street that remind even the most novice newbie analyst of a bygone era.

If you listen closely you might just harken back too an era when Quick Service Restaurants stood for Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value. There was a time when full-service restaurants featured Italian, Seafood, Steaks and Chop houses, or Chicken.
A time when Alice May Brock said: “Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian, wine and tarragon make it French, sour cream makes it Russian, lemon and cinnamon make it Greek, soy sauce makes it Chinese, garlic makes it good”.

Today, seemingly every restaurant menu from every sector has Italian, French, Russian, Greek, and even a Chinese component. Today, the United States continues to be the home to all, the melting pot of nationalities. The restaurant industry on the other hand is fast becoming the melting pot of Fast Casual Sameness. 

Today only CEO’s and CMO’s can identify the brands nuance differentiation in any of the 5 P’s of food marketing.  Where research companies say that there is wide flexibility in pricing for new Fast Casual menu items. The consumer on the other hand has evolved as have other channels. Restaurant customer migration continues to expand accelerating growth within the fresh prepared ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat space all the while creating new channels of fresh food distribution.

Non-traditional avenues of fresh prepared food distribution continue to grow year over year same store sales.  Retail Chain Drug Stores the ilk of Walgreens are garnering new loyal fresh food customers. Chain liquor stores the ilk of Pinkies are finding success with fresh prepared Food To-Go. Convenience stores the ilk of Sheetz and Wawa continue to drive top line sales with fresh prepared food all the while expanding in new regions of the country even classifying themselves as restaurants that sell gas or offering Fast Casual Food To-Go.  Forty Five percent of Wal-Mart customers report buying fresh prepared food at Wal-Mart within the last 30 days.  Trader Joe’s has the highest sales per square foot for retail space of any food retailer. Whole Foods fresh prepared food sales are now passing 25% with even greater margins. 

When the rush to the middle aka Fast Casual takes on a life of its own and legacy restaurants ignore the undercurrents of sameness. Then differentiation takes a back seat to success.  It’s at the intersection of food sameness and lack of brand differentiation that consumer migration escalates. Is your brand there? Are your year over year same store comps down? Omni-channel retail is here.

Success does leave clues and integrating Foodservice Solutions® 5 P’s of food marketing may just the differentiation driver you need to replace nuance with consumers.  In an Omni-channel retail world consumers are empowered with choice.  Will your brand be one of the choices five years from now?

Interested in learning how the 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization contact us via Email us at: or visit Johnson, or

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