Fast Casual Restaurant Chains Still Lead in Unit Growth and Customer Visits


Fast casual restaurant chains have grown both in unit count and consumer visits says a market researcher. The count of fast casual chain restaurants rose by 1 percent to 25,312 units as of September 30, 2018 compared to the same period the year before, according to The NPD Group.

Percentage increase in restaurant traffic by segmentConsumer visits of fast-casual restaurants were also up — by 3 percent from February 2018 to February of this year. Compare that to a 1 percent increase of traffic with quick service restaurants and no change for U.S. foodservice traffic as a whole, according to NPD’s market research.

The researcher reports that the top five U.S. metro areas with the most number of fast-casual chain units are:

  1. Los Angeles, 2002 units, up 2 percent
  2. Dallas-Fort Worth, 1146 units, down 1 percent
  3. New York City, 1052, down 1 percent
  4. Chicago, 956, up 2 percent
  5. Washington DC, 884 units, up 1 percent

Fast-casual may be a small slice of the total foodservice industry, but it is a quickly rising slice. When it comes to consumer visits, fast casual restaurants represent 8 percent of total quick-service traffic; whereas, traditional quick-service restaurants represent 75 percent of traffic. Quick-service retail, e.g. grocery stores with prepared food, represents 17 percent.

Don Sniegowski