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Millennials and 'fast casual': food trends everyone is watching

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Barry Brecheisen/Invision for Kendall College and the Illinois Restaurant Association/AP/File

(Read caption) Chicago-area high school students, who are enrolled in the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s “ProStart” program, take a selfie. The annual National Restaurant Association Show kicked off on Thursday May 22 in Chicago.

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No one understands the foodservice business in the UK and Europe better than Peter Backman, managing director of London-based researcher Horizons. He also is one of the sharpest observers of the trends evident at the annual National Restaurant Association Show. Peter Backman was on the show floor for this year’s just-completed event as well and is pleased to share his insightful report, titled “The New Normal.”

In his introduction, Backman writes: “Two words were on everybody’s lips – Millennials and Fast Casual. They formed the leitmotiv of this year’s NRA Show. Later on, we comment on what these words mean but they translate into the confirmation that the world of tomorrow will be different from today’s because the latest cohort of new consumers – the Millennials – have different perceptions, aspirations and lifestyles from their predecessors – Gen X, Baby Boomers and the rest.

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“While Millennials aren’t the only people attracted to Fast Casual outlets, they are hugely influential in their emergence. The sector is growing significantly faster than any other sector in the restaurant space whether quick service, casual dining, family dining, or fine dining.

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“Overall the US foodservice sector is forecast to grow at a shade under 2 percent in real terms in 2015 (that’s getting on for 4 percent in nominal terms) – and the outlook is brightening which means the outturn may be slightly better…The overall take away is that the US foodservice market is expanding just a bit, and because one specific sector – Fast Casual – is a clear winner, it is clear to everyone where they should be focusing their attention.”

There’s a long weekend coming up. I invite you to spend a small part of it reading Peter Backman’s complete report, which can be accessed here.