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The City with the Most Fast Casual Restaurants Per Resident Is…

Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky ranks #5. Photo by bmm of a race at Keeneland Race Track, Lexington, Ky.

CHICAGO — Colorado sits on top of the country when it comes to having the most fast-casual restaurants per resident. Its mile high city of Denver ranks second, according to foodservice researcher the NPD Group. The research shows that fast casual chain units increased by 7 percent from last year's spring census.

Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado is the U.S. metro area with the most fast casual chain units per resident. Of the 15,728 fast casual chain units in the U.S., the Fort Collins-Loveland metro area has only 41 but is number one in terms of unit density at 13.14 fast casual chain locations per 100,000 residents, according to NPD's Spring 2013 ReCount restaurant census. The U.S. average is only 5.00 fast casual chain units per 100,000 residents.

Many fast casual chains, which are upscale quick service restaurant (QSR) concepts that offer more service, higher quality food, and have a larger average check size than other fast food restaurants, have been the success story of the restaurant industry. Visits to fast casual restaurants continue to grow when total restaurant industry traffic has had little growth. In the year ending May 2013, visits to fast casual restaurants increased by 9 percent while total industry traffic was flat, according to NPD's Crest, which daily tracks how consumers use restaurants.

Other metro areas with the most fast casual chain restaurants per resident are the Colorado metro areas of Denver-Aurora-Broomfield (density of 12.76) and Boulder (density 12.53). Tallahassee, Florida (density 11.74); Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky (density 11.72), and Gainesville, Florida (density 11.69) are next in rank order. The largest city to have the most fast casual chain residents per resident is the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia metro area that ranks seventh in population with 5.8 million residents and has 10.23 fast casual chain units per 100,000 residents.

"Many of the fast casual chains have been adding units in an otherwise soft restaurant environment," says Greg Starzynski, director- product management, NPD Foodservice. "Traditional quick service restaurants have taken notice and are working to compete with the fast casual chains' offerings, especially in terms of the freshness and quality of food. All of these efforts will benefit both the consumer and industry."

Top Ten Metro CBSA's in Fast Casual Chain Density

Metro Units CBSA
(Units/100k Population)
Fort Collins-Loveland, CO 41 311,934 13.14
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO 337 2,640,301 12.76
Boulder, CO 38 303,277 12.53
Tallahassee, FL 44 374,691 11.74
Lexington-Fayette, KY 57 486,398 11.72
Gainesville, FL 32 273,669 11.69
Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 225 2,021,906 11.13
Bloomington-Normal, IL 19 170,920 11.12
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 593 5,797,916 10.23
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 223 2,181,093 10.22


15,728 314,736,953 5.00

Source: The NPD Group/Spring 2013 ReCount®. 1 Population estimate from Applied Geographic Solutions, Inc., Cambria, CA

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