Fresh Mex was one of the first power segments in Fast Casual and it continues to re-invent itself to meet the demands of today's consumer. The segment has been on downturn in the past few years, but Fresh Mex is set to make a comeback surge in the Fast Casual segment with a connection to the new power consumer demographic, the Millennials. In this episode of Fast Casual Nation, Host Paul Barron explores the innovation of Fresh Mex at The Velvet Taco.
Entries in The Chipotle Effect (6)
The $27 billion Fast Casual segment of the $632 billion restaurant industry grew at an astonishing 20.8 percent in 2011 over 2010, confirming that there is no slowdown in the appeal of Fast Casual to a broad range of consumers. This rising tide won’t automatically lift all Fast Casual boats, though. Successful brands know they have to keep their fingers on the pulse of the Fast Casual customer’s needs, wants, and choices if they want to capture their best share of this growing market demand. And there is no better way to do this than to follow the Fast Casual Social 100.
In my book The Chipotle Effect, I go into great detail about this new age social savvy consumer that is impacting the restaurant business, and the clarity of this consumer continues to shine through in studies like this one. Key findings show an amazing frequency rise in the millennial group, and the explosion of the use of social to talk about restaurant experiences. Further study is underway on the impact of what this can mean if this growth continues, rest assured the model in which we engage consumers has changed forever.
The Fast Casual Social 100 2012 Mid-Year Report is the first analysis of its kind, connecting brands with actual consumer preference and behavior for the Fast Casual restaurant business. This data is especially relevant and actionable, as it targets Fast Casual consumers and the increasingly important Social Media Super Users of the restaurant industry, so here’s an appetizer made fresh with some of the key findings.
Super Influencers (AKA Super Users) are very heavy users of social media, particularly in terms of content creation. They are also more likely to be early adopters of new technologies, try new products, and take risks and share opinions, both good and bad. DigitalCoco’s Social Insights and Restaurant Social Media Index tracks 36 million Super Influencers and more than 4,000 brands in the restaurant arena. Super Users average 5.4 visits to a Fast Casual restaurant per month, up from 3.1 visits during the same period last year. These most-connected social consumers for all food segments have an average reach of more than 700 social connections per user and they are more willing to share their restaurant experiences, both good and bad. Leading Fast Casual brands make sure those experiences are super good and super share-worthy!
While all age groups are welcome sources of customers, 42 percent of the Gen Y cohort visits upscale casual dining restaurants at least once per month, versus 33 percent of Gen X and 24 percent of Boomers. Gen Y diners represent a ‘double whammy’ for brands: not only are they the restaurant customers of the future, they are also the most likely to use social media to give a restaurant a thumbs up (or down)! According to a recent NPD study, Millennial made a total of more than 12 billion visits for out of home dining in 2011, representing $73 billion spent on meals and snacks. More than half (52%) of Gen Y Social Super Users visit a Fast Casual restaurant four or more times per month. This data is supported in the Top 100 Most Loved Restaurants report by DigitalCoCo which breaks down the areas of most loved attributes of the restaurant business and the demographic the embraces them.
The most-engaged restaurant consumers prefer specific types of Fast Casual dining. The top segments for Super Users mirror overall trends in the Fast Casual industry: Sandwich/Salad, Bakery Cafe', Ethnic, Fresh Mex/Mexican, and Burgers.
And speaking of burgers, the largest segment (by revenue) in the restaurant industry, we’re seeing a major reboot of this take out staple into what’s being called the Better Burger: a patty with premium ingredients, better protein, buns, toppings, and sides. Consumers are engaging with the Beloved Beef Broilers at a faster rate than any other menu segment. Mentions by location and venue are up by 11 percent in the first half compared to the previous six months. Though flattening some over the past year the burger segment still seems to be holding well.
Location-based activity continues to be important, with Fast Casual Super Users posting 49.3 LBA per month. The top most checked in segment is Sandwiches, the top demographic is 25 to 34 year old females, and 67 percent leave tips or comments related to food or service. Social Consumers love the quality of food at (in ranking order) Noodles & Company, Wow Bao, Boudin Bakery, Chipotle, and Panera Bread. Chipotle leads the pack in service quality, followed by Firehouse Subs, Freshii, Corner Bakery, and Noodles & Company.
Want to proceed to the main dish? Click here to buy the Fast Casual Social 100 2012 Mid-Year Report. Or register for the Fast Casual Trends & Directions Conference and get the report FREE.
As THE Go-To guy in digital, social and media for restaurant and hospitality industries, Paul is the founder of DigitalCoCo - one of his six companies in media and technology launched over the past two decades. Web entrepreneur, publisher and producer, Paul has been instrumental in developing and publishing platforms, creative content, tech solutions and web audience for global brands with real impact and results. As the founder of FastCasual.com and QSRweb.com, he has been a catalyst for both the retail and the restaurant industries, and is known as "the father of the Fast Casual segment." Paul is also a sought-after public speaker and a consultant to many top global brands in the business.
A 2012 Forbes Top 15 Social Power Influencers, Restaurant Trendsetter of the year 2012, Host of Fast Casual Nation a new global documentary, and considered one of the best data scientists in retail and food, his compassion for the restaurant business has been mastered over the past twenty years with more than 500 brands.
Sixteen years ago, Paul Barron coined the term "fast casual" to describe a new kind of restaurant. Today it's a $500 billion dollar market segment. Panera Bread, Qdoba, Chipotle, Noodles & Company, Panda Express are all household names.
When I wanted to know what was next for restaurants, I naturally turned to Paul for his insight. He is consistently one or two steps ahead.
Paul formed DigitalCoCo, a digital agency that quickly became a leader in the restaurant industry. His knowledge of social media, mobile and restaurants are intriguing to say the least.
1. What were you noticing in the industry when you identified Fast Casual?
In the mid 90’s we as an industry were experiencing a shift of the consumer and a need for the restaurant industry to begin to introduce new options. Technology and how consumers were gaining information about food and restaurants were changing.
It was a time when consumers were beginning to experiment due to the introduction of the Food Network which was born in 1993. For the first time food knowledge was making its way to the masses.
2. What is the future of the restaurant industry? What will we be talking about 12 months from now?
The next evolution for the industry will be customizing the experience even more than it is now. Think gourmet level Fast Casual, not celebrity chefs but close to that level with local and regional concepts.
The creation of micro brands that have turned into power house brands like Chipotle are just the beginning on how experience will change everything we know about the restaurant business. Think in terms of how Apple redefined an old standard, one where they thought change would never come, the record industry and the mobile industry.
Steve Jobs changed the experience and created a new evolution of a consumer expectation that is now seeping into so many new channels as a consumer culture, including the restaurant business.
3. How closely do you watch consumer behavior trends?
Consumer science is how I discovered Fast Casual in the first place, the only difference is that now I have tools like social media and advanced technology that is ramping up my discovery of trends and event shifts in consumer behavior much faster.
In just the past few years my idea of mapping the global restaurant consumer through the use of big data is beginning to pay off with understanding and identifying trends well before they become mainstream. Locally sourced and the health halo, food trucks and mobile dining, mobile food interaction and ethnic are just a few that have already made their way into my book “The Chipotle Effect” drafted over two years ago. Read More
Paul Barron is founder and CEO of DigitalCoCo as well as founder of FastCasual.com and QSRWeb.com. SmartBrief interviewed him on the future of fast casual and his new book, “The Chipotle Effect,” excerpts of which were published on SmartBlog on Food & Beverage.
“The Chipotle Effect” is touted as the first book on the fast-casual restaurant business. What inspired you to write the book?
The vision was one that started back in the mid ’90s, when nobody was really looking at the space the way I was. I saw this as a revolution in how the restaurant industry would innovate to meet the new demands of the consumer. At that time, I knew the Web would transform everything we do in the business, including connecting with our guests, but even then I still did not fully grasp the massive impact that social media would play in the future of the business. I felt this was the ultimate game changer for our business, and in 2002, I recognized I was onto something really big!
With that insight, I focused on getting FastCasual.com to the forefront of the media sphere, and the idea of the book was born. As I expected, the evolution of the Web, social media and the fast-casual segment came together in a “perfect storm,” and today, the fast-casual segment is realizing the most amazing growth the restaurant business has experienced in more than three decades.
In one of your excerpts, you discuss the “food-as-lifestyle” revolution. What advice do you have for restaurants that want to keep up with the revolution but might not have the resources to do so?
I think every great restaurant operator finds the resources to keep up with the latest trends and technology. The barrier to entry is so much lower than ever before. After all, they are all innovators, some better than others, and the reality of this or any business is that it’s about people and ideas. If you are short on either, you are toast. Traditionally, the restaurant business has been built on food, when in my opinion the shift to “food as a lifestyle” is the new mantra. This means you must create an overall experience, one that not only impacts the guest while in the restaurant but also when they are outside the four walls, in ways that will create new lifestyle expectations: better health, better taste, better quality, better lifestyle.
Innovation is the only way to stay competitive. The consumer is already two steps ahead of us now due to the mass adoption of social media and technology, which have created a whole new level of consumers who are highly adaptable, flexible, curious and armed with seemingly endless choices. This is the biggest opportunity that has hit the American business scene since the evolution of the auto industry. Tech bubble, ha! The golden age of the restaurant business is about to change in ways that will impact hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. alone and will create tens of thousands of entrepreneur millionaires over the next 20 years. Read More
The following is an excerpt from Paul Barron’s new book, “The Chipotle Effect,” slated for publication in 2012. Visit the website to get the full copy of “The Chipotle Effect.” Reprinted with permission by the author.
Our business will evolve. That much is certain. It’s been evolving since the first McDonald’s opened its doors. What’s changed is the speed of that adaptation and change. It’s increased a hundredfold. So while the consumer love affair with fast casual is at a peak and the future looks extremely bright, it’s impossible to predict where the evolutionary process will take us.
The increasing power of the Web and social media will have a profound impact on the restaurant business over the next two decades. For those who adapt well, the impact will be unimaginably fast growth and profitability. For those who resist, the effects will be devastating.
The next Chipotle Effect is out there right now, probably taking shape in the worlds of mobile media, information search, or a new iteration of the social network. Figuring out the nature of this next leap forward for fast casual is the Holy Grail of this industry. Fast casual has forever changed the landscape of the American restaurant industry in a way that has given us the chance to connect meaningfully to the new consumer in ways that fast food never could. Only through foresight will we leverage this opportunity. Read More