Chicago, April 22, 2019 —Fast casual restaurant chains have been growing both in units and customer visits for the last decade, finds The NPD Group. The number of fast casual chain restaurants rose by 1 percent to 25,312 total units, based on NPD’s Fall 2018 ReCount® restaurant census, which includes restaurants open as of September 30, 2018. In the year ending February 2019 compared to year ago, fast casual customers increased their visits by 3 percent while the total quick service restaurant category, under which the fast casual category falls, were up 1 percent and total U.S. foodservice traffic remained flat, according to NPD’s ongoing foodservice market research.
The top five city metro areas with the most fast casual chain units based on the Fall 2018 ReCount are in rank order: Los Angeles, 2002 units, up 2 percent; Dallas-Fort Worth, 1146 units, down -1 percent; New York City, 1052, down 1 percent; Chicago, 956, up 2 percent; and Washington DC, 884 units, up 1 percent. North Platte, Nebraska had a 100 percent jump in fast casual chain units when it went from one to two fast casual units.
The fast casual category is still a relatively small slice of the total foodservice industry. Fast casual restaurants represent 8 percent of total quick service visits whereas traditional quick service restaurants, represent 75 percent of traffic, and quick service retail, like prepared foods available in grocery stores, represents 17 percent.