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From the November 2015 Newsletter

The Rise Of Fast Casual

A Dairy Bonanza

Last year after a 40-year run, Burger King abandoned its long-time slogan: “Have it Your Way.” It was time to move on as the fast food giant struggled to find new ways to capture the changing tastes of consumers, who are now enamored with fast casual restaurants. 

How ironic. “Have it Your Way” is the foundation for the fast casual movement. Consumers are demanding fresher, healthier and higher quality foods, cooked to their personal taste profile. By turning from “Have it Your Way”, Burger King officially passed the torch, handing its crown to the fast casual world. 

Fast casual is the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry today. The market for fast casual food has grown by rates of 10 times the fast food industry in the past decade, exceeding about $30 billion in 2014. 

Food personalization is a big selling point at fast casual restaurants, and Millennials are its biggest fans. Generally strapped for time, they want what they want, when they want it. Also appealing is that fast casual restaurants promise a higher quality of food with fewer frozen or processed ingredients than fast food restaurants. 

The Leaders of the Pack 

Some of the country’s fastest growing restaurant chains have helped set the stage for the fast casual revolution: 

Chipotle® allows customers to step up, view a variety of options and then make selections. The Mexican food chain vows to serve the very best ingredients they can find and prepare them by hand. 

Panera Bread® is all about freshness and selection. They offer separate menus for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-conscious, protein-rich and even sodium-conscious. 

At 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza, customers choose from a variety of the best charcuterie and fresh, local vegetables. The personalized thin crust pizzas are baked and often ready before the customer leaves the counter.

Take Advantage of the Opportunity 

Regardless of the restaurant type, the following ideas are ways to allow Real California Cheese to add a bit of fast casual at your restaurant: 

• Expand the options - Make that cheeseburger, deli sandwich, burrito or taco with different cheeses, rather than just Cheddar, use Blue, Asiago and of course, the California original, Monterey Jack, offer distinct flavor profiles. Rotate available cheeses by day of week for added interest. California has over 50 cheese suppliers that produce over 250 styles and varieties of cheese. 

• Pizza is a natural fast casual food - Consider offering thinner crusts and smaller pies that cook fast and ensure personalization. Look beyond Mozzarella to appeal to your customers’ desire for something unique. Cheese blends like 80% Mozzarella, 10% Provolone and 10% Cheddar add variety and the opportunity to charge a little more. California Fresh Mozzarella and Burrata offer fresh, local taste and appeal. 

• Make it visible - Rather than hiding behind a wall, bring your food preparation to the front. Allow your customers to see exactly the food preparation. Give them opportunities to view and choose their ingredients. Made-to-order salads, certain ethnic foods and sandwiches are perfect for this type of presentation. 

• Make it fast, but not too fast - Have your ingredients ready-to-use, including sliced cheeses and meats that make it easier to provide quick in-and-out service for your customers. Don’t “pre-make” your sandwiches and salads, however, or the freshness appeal will be gone. 

• Tell a story – Today’s customers want to know the story of your restaurant and the ingredients you use. For example, how you got started in the restaurant business, where you source your ingredients, and the freshness of your vegetables, fruit, milk and cheeses. The CMAB Foodservice team can help you tell the story. 

The challenge for all restaurant operators is to listen to customers and continually strive to satisfy their changing appetites. Keep your menu as fresh as your ingredients, look for healthy alternatives and source the highest quality fare. 

Customers who want it “their way” will notice the difference.