In 1975, full-service chain and independent restaurants had nearly 60 percent of the restaurant industry market, while QSRs (including fast-casual concepts, pizza chains, drink and snack concepts) had only 35 percent. GE Capital’s annual Chain Restaurant Industry Review found last year, sales at full-service restaurants totaled $195.7 billion while QSRs generated $195.1 billion I call that equal in terms of market share. When you add in the 10.7% growth of retail fresh prepared food at C-stores and a total Technomic estimates at roughly 11 billion, clearly full-service restaurants continue to be out of favor.
With QSRs surpassing Full-Service Restaurants in both numbers and sales one needs to ask if the ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat growth is leveling the playing field or simply expanding points of retail fresh food distribution. Are Americans all time starved, lazy or simply have they moved on from the day to day drudgery of cooking, planning meals and cleaning up?
When looking at many of the nation's fastest growing chains, including Chipotle, Five Guys, Starbucks, Jimmie John's, Subway, 7 Eleven, Firehouse Subs, Panera Bread and others. Wingstop just reported 10.5 percent same-store sales growth, and its unit count is exploding. Wisconsin-based burger and frozen custard chain Culver's just had the best quarter in its history, 16-percent same-store sales growth. It's adding units too it is clear hand held food for immediate consumption is a long term trend. 7 Eleven is opening a new store (all with fresh food) every 2 hour in 2012 somewhere in the world.
Clearly full service restaurants are not going away but with the growth of fresh prepared food growing at C-stores, within grocery store deli’s and retail chain drug stores. Each sector providing high quality fresh prepared food with full flavor profiles that reflect the region full service restaurant market share may continue to decline for some time.
Steven Johnson is Grocerant Guru at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions, with extensive experience as a multi-unit restaurant operator, consultant, brand / product positioning expert and public speaking. Facebook.com/Steven Johnson, Linkedin.com/in/grocerant or twitter.com/grocerant