A recent report titled the Technomic Fast-Casual Top 150 Chain Restaurant Report shows that the strength of the restaurant market continues to be the fast-casual segment. Fast-casual chains grew 8.4% to $21.5 billion in 2011, ahead of the 6.6% growth in 2010. Overall sales increases for the top 500 U.S. restaurant food chains was by comparison, just 3.5%.
These are the kind of numbers we have seen echoed in the Atlanta market for the past three years. The recession has provided growth to the fast casual segment as diners shifted from more expensive "sit down" offerings to a night out that is fast, fresh and budget friendly. The same trend carries over to restaurants for sale. Those that align into the fast casual bucket represented approximately 30% of the transactions by restaurants brokers at We Sell Restaurants in 2011. That includes lease spaces for new concepts as well as restaurants that changed hands.
Part of the success of this category is the strong takeout and delivery portion of a fast casual restaurant. Fast casual concepts are establishing takeout programs that contribute as much as as 50% to gross sales. Catering is another strong element of the fast casual market with operators like Which Wich maximizing a box lunch business that seems to have no end.
In total, the fast-casual industry is pegged at $27 billion in sales annually and still growing. Superstars within the category range from Five Guys in the better burger category that recorded an astonishing 32.8% sales growth last year to Panera Bread, a leader in the bakery category that landed a 10.2% sales gain. Chipotle led the Mexican market garnering sales in 2011 of $2.3 Billion dollars.
Fast casual restaurants for sale in our portfolio include a Which Wich? Sandwich Franchise for sale along with several independent fast casual operators.