Not Another Industry Event

Does the restaurant industry need another event? Yes, we do.

Technomic has partnered with the National Restaurant Association’s Fast Casual Industry Council and DigitalCoCo on an October event about the fast-casual segment. It’s news I’m eager to share, because I think it fills a sizable need in the market.

If you attend a lot of industry events already, you might disagree. You’re asking yourself, do we really need yet another conference? It’s tough out there and I have work to do. Business travel is just starting to pick back up to pre-recession (if not quite pre-9-11) levels—why now?

It’s the right topic. Fast casual is the fastest-growing segment since casual dining’s climb in the late ’90s. The Top 150 Fast Casual Chains grew sales by $8.4 percent in 2011 over 2010, on top of an increase of 6.6 percent the year before. Our research shows that fast-casual restaurants earn convenience ratings from consumers that are comparable to quick service, and food quality and taste scores that compete with full service. And in craveability of the food, the sector has no equal.

It’s the right time. The fast-casual segment will continue to outpace the industry—provided its operators continue to innovate. The segment comprises only about 7 percent of the restaurant industry now, leaving plenty of opportunity for successful brands.

We have the right partners. The National Restaurant Association’s Fast Casual Industry Council and DigitalCoCo are actively involved in developing and executing the Fast Casual Trends & Directions Conference. The FCIC is a think tank comprised of the key leaders of the fast-casual segment. DigitalCoCo, a social firm that created the first consumer and social brand index, was founded by Paul Barron, founder of FastCasual.com and consultant to restaurant operators.

Together, we have the expertise. Technomic has been benchmarking the restaurant industry for almost 50 years and the fast-casual segment for more than a decade. Coupled with our exclusive consumer research, this industry data enables us to confidently project where the segment is headed—in terms of menu and operating trends as well as dollars. DigitalCoCo’s social-networking analytics quantifies consumer sentiment and brand perception, providing an up-to-the-minute pulse. And the FCIC leaders bring the real-life perspective of what’s working in the stores, in their markets, in front of the customers.

So maybe you don’t need to attend yet another industry event. But if you’re a fast-casual operator—or if you compete with them—you’ll find original research, critical strategies and actionable recommendations to stay profitable even in challenging times.

The details are here. But in a nutshell, the National Restaurant Association Fast Casual 2012 Trends & Directions Conference at Dallas’ Union Station begins October 2 with a cocktail reception, where Don Fox, head of the Fast Casual Industry Council and CEO of Firehouse, will keynote. October 3 includes a full day of research, insights, operator viewpoints, roundtable discussions and future forecasting.

Hope to see you there.

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Darren Tristano

Darren Tristano is President of Technomic Inc. Since 1993, he has led the development of Technomic’s Information Services division and directed multiple aspects of the firm’s operations.

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