Darren has spent more than 20 years sharing foodservice intelligence with key players in the industry for Technomic. He also writes on food-related issues for USA Today, the New York Times, Forbes and more. At Roots Empower 2016, he focused significantly on another growing trend: fast casual dining.
Diners enjoy convenience. They appreciate a 30-minute quality-food lunch that is freshly prepared at a good price point – and that’s harder to find in full service restaurants. Ten years ago, Darren shares, 53% of restaurant sales came from full service dining, but limited service – largely fast casual – continues to trend up. Here’s more of what Darren had to say on the subject at Roots Empower 2016:
After the conference, we decided to follow up with Darren to discuss this trend in more depth. What else should we know about fast casual? Here are highlights.
Fast casual dining is moving towards including more produce from farms.
That way, besides offering fresh and nutritious foods, they can tell stories to customers, spotlighting the farmer and providing transparency in the farm-to-table story. These stories are especially important to younger consumers.
Generation Z (ages 14 to 22) will search for vegetarian and vegan dishes. They won’t necessarily remain as interested as they age, but there is continued traction with this demand.
We took this opportunity to also ask him about one of the top nine fast food trends, as reported by QRS Magazine: that vegetables are the star. Nearly every one of the 2016 forecasts by experts mentions vegetables as a trend, with one calling it the hero of ingredients, playing important roles across the menu, including in snacks and beverages. Specific vegetables noted for creative use in menus include “potatoes, mushroom, broccoli, cabbage, kale” and their usage “dovetails” with other trends, including “local sourcing, sustainability, and natural ingredients.”
Darren agrees with the summation of this accelerating trend, adding that plant-based dishes are in the spotlight, thanks to increased attention on health and wellness. This trend won’t necessarily grow rapidly, he says, but will accelerate. Plus, price points are attractive with plant-based dishes, being less expensive – especially when protein prices spike.
You can find out Darren’s insights on a wide variety of other trends, including the reduction of food waste, inventory management, trending ingredients (including purple potatoes!), educating consumers and much more:
“Roots,” concludes Darren, “was unlike anything I’d ever seen or done before. This is the kind of conference a wide variety of people should attend, understand and learn from. Being out in nature makes it an even more amazing opportunity.”
Discover more about the Roots Empower 2016 event.