An emerging concept for the fast casual restaurant sector is barbecue, according to Darren Tristano, executive vice president of the food research firm Technomic.
In the latest edition of Technomic’s "ConcepTrac" newsletter, Tristano makes the case for the trend, noting that barbecue restaurants have resonated with patrons for years thanks to their home-style offerings and friendly atmosphere.
“Patrons flock to fast casual barbecue concepts because they offer the best of both worlds: the hospitality of a full service family-style barbecue place and the no frills service of a barbecue shack,” Tristano explains.
According to Technomic’s 2014 Top 500 Chain Restaurants Report, fast casual concept Dickey’s Barbecue Pit was the fastest growing $200 million-plus chain in 2013.
Some of today’s trendiest fast casual barbecue restaurants are also notable for bringing something new to the barbecue sector. For example, 4 Rivers Smokehouse units feature a dessert counter with freshly baked goods. The concept also donates a portion of proceeds to local charities and schools. Tres Carnes mixes barbecue with Mexican fare.
“The fast casual barbecue sector is underdeveloped but has great potential to grow,” Tristano concludes. “In order to succeed in the competitive fast casual sector, barbecue concepts need to tout premium preparations (e.g., meats sliced or pulled to order, open kitchens displaying smokers) and be well trained in regional flavor profiles. Concepts could also stand out by using ‘snout-to-tail’ ingredients and experimenting with emerging proteins like lamb and duck.”