From the Editor: Fresh Step Forward

Photo by Nick Wong

A new study done in the U.S. shows the fast-casual segment is growing and evolving. “Today’s younger consumers enjoy the endless choices offered by food halls and the straight-from-the-source freshness they find at farmer’s markets,” says Sharon Olson, executive director of Y-Pulse, which surveyed 5,000 consumers. “Marketplace fast casual capitalizes on younger consumers’ desires by merging the best features of both into a modern, high-tech environment that turns a meal break into an experience.”
According to the research, five key trends are driving the change. First, while farmer’s markets and food halls appeal to all demographics, the study found the reasons younger and older demographics find these venues appealing differ. Younger consumers are attracted to the entertainment value. In fact, 62 per cent of consumers aged 18 to 34 say they enjoy going to these venues because they view them as a social occasion.

Marketplace fast-casual operations also offer an engaging atmosphere, while providing consumers with as much infor-mation as possible about their food. These types of venues are also popular because they showcase fresh ingredients.
The survey also highlighted the importance of merchandising. Operators in these venues not only display the assembly of customers’ meals, but how the food is prepared.
Another key finding from the study is the trend toward fresh and customizable. This generation is looking to eat less processed foods but they don’t want to sacrifice convenience. A total of 76 per cent of consumers aged 18 to 34 believe they shouldn’t have to try too hard to eat healthy. Given that marketplace fast-casual restaurants emphasize fresh produce and nat-ural ingredients, patronizing a marketplace fast-casual restaurant is a “painless process.”
Customization makes eating well easy as it allows customers to pick and choose from a variety of fresh options. Eighty-six per cent of consumers aged 18 to 34 say they’re likely to purchase menu items they can customize.
The study also highlights the importance of technology as an enabler to make the ordering process more seamless. Sixty-two per cent of consumers aged 18 to 34 agree using technology helps make ordering easier, and more accurate than ordering from an actual person.

Finally, today’s consumers continue to demand more information about how and where their food is sourced, leading operators to ensure they “tout their close ties with vendors in a way that establishes trust and tells a story.”

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Rosanna Caira is the editor and publisher of Kostuch Media’s Foodservice and Hospitality, and Hotelier magazines. In her capacity as editor of Canada’s two leading hospitality publications, Rosanna directs the editorial and graphic content of both publications, and is responsible for the editorial vision of the magazines, its five websites as well as the varied tertiary products including e-newsletters, supplements and special projects. In addition to her editorial duties, Rosanna also serves as publisher of the company, directing the strategic development of the Sales and Marketing, Production and Circulation departments. Rosanna is the face of the magazines, representing the publications at industry functions and speaking engagements. She serves on various committees and Boards, including the Board of Directors of the Canadian Hospitality Foundation. She is a recipient of the Ontario Hostelry’s Gold Award in the media category. In 2006, Rosanna was voted one of the 32 most successful women of Italian heritage in Canada. Rosanna is a graduate of Toronto’s York University, where she obtained a BA degree in English literature.

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