The beginning of the new year has many landlords looking for the next growing industry to occupy their properties. For many, restaurants like Baja Fresh, Panera Bread, Chipotle and Qdoba have been a welcomed answer to that search. Called “fast-casual”, restaurants in this sector saw sales of $35 billion in 2013, an 11 percent increase from the previous year. This helps to support preliminary data that indicates another 10 percent growth spurt in the 2014 year. While some skeptics argue that the growth will not continue, many factors indicate that growth is strong and here to stay.
In addition to many rapid store rollouts for top chain restaurants, the fast-casual sector is experiencing continued sales growth as well as impressive innovation. For example, made-to-order pizza companies, such as Blaze Pizza and PizzaRev, are turning what used to be a meal focused on dinner and group dining into a casual lunchtime meal. Many fast-casual restaurants also attract consumers through their authenticity, many choosing to let their “story” define their brand. Chipotle is known for this authenticity factor, gaining fame and recognition for its “food with integrity” menu. Unique qualities like these have helped skyrocket many fast-casual restaurants towards widespread success, and for now it looks like the trend will only continue