Fast Food Industry is Slowly Moving Upscale
Consumers don't say …"let's go out tonight for fast food… fast casual… or casual?". Consumers base their decisions on convenience, ambiance, budget, what their family wants, menu options, and the brand of restaurant. Some quick service restaurants have shown they can move up the chain to be more upscale in menu and ambiance. McCafe has proven this driving McDonalds same store sales consistently . Brands like a Subway may have a more difficult time pulling this off. Food trends are at best, educated guesses, so it is still too soon to predict fast food trends for 2012… so it will be something I will be following closely in the future.
Food Trends 2012 - Upscale QSR
Steven Johnson, the Grocerant Guru, is my go to person for foodservice insight so here is Steve's take on the fast food trend of Upscale Fast Food :
"There is a universal commonality in consumer retail food preferences, particularly in flavor profiles and acceptable ambiance. The Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) were all alike in look, feel, menu and price. Today most legacy food retailers are playing catch-up. They are catching up to Starbucks, who captured a huge share of food and beverage market share by moving "up-scale". The global success of Starbucks reflects the universal commonality of "up-scale" QSR's. McDonalds began the process of "up-grading" ambiance on a global basis as well and the results have been stellar for both the top and bottom line.
The cycle of up-grading food offerings and ambiance has not been limited to the restaurant sector. Retailing trends show that convenience stores have dramatically improved food and beverage quality, service and ambiance producing higher per-unit sales than many legacy QSR's. Sector leadersSheetz and Wawa have both attained "up-scale" status in the mind's eye of the consumer.
Grocery sector companies the ilk of Wegman's, Whole Foods and Central Market are offering high quality ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food in store driving an increase in customer frequency and loyalty. What's important for all retailers to understand is the consumer is dynamic not static and always moves forward."