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The global casual dining market experienced a sharp downturn at the height of the global recession, however, sales surged throughout 2009 and 2011, surpassing US$175 million by the beginning of 2012.
This enviable performance has come within the casual dining market despite continued stagnation in the world's two largest sectors, the US and Japan, where well-established competitors continue to struggle amidst a rapidly shifting demand environment and often tired branding.
Elsewhere, however, demand for novel and relatively informal dining remains very strong, encompassing both upwardly mobile emerging market consumers as well as developed market consumers seeking accessible value.
A casual dining restaurant is a restaurant that serves moderately-priced food in a casual atmosphere. Except for buffet-style restaurants, casual dining restaurants typically provide table service. Casual dining comprises a market segment between fast food establishments and fine dining restaurants.
Casual dining restaurants often have a full bar with separate bar staff, a larger beer menu and a limited wine menu. They are frequently, but not necessarily, part of a wider chain, particularly in the United States. In Italy, such casual restaurants are often called "trattoria," and are usually independently owned and operated.
Demand for branded/themed full-service remained high outside North America and Japan, particularly among affluent emerging market consumer looking to show off their wealth and sophistication.
In the UK, fast-casual restaurants have built a 3% share in the £49.2 billion food service market. In the 12 months to March 2012, the fast-casual sector posted a 3.6% increase in consumer visits and sales growth of 2.5%. That compares with a 0.9% increase in consumer visits and 1.6% sales growth for quick-service restaurants (QSR), often seen as the bright spot in the food service sector.
Chains such as Chipotle, offering Mexican food and Vapiano, with its fresh take on Italian food, epitomised the attributes of fast-casual dining. Others include Nando's, where consumers pay for their meals when ordered, enabling them to leave when they choose without waiting for the bill. Food is priced to enable young consumers to dine out, bridging the gap between fast food (with an average spend per trip of £3.47) and full-service dining (average spend £9.46).
While the US and UK will remain among the world's leading regions and leading new concept generators within the casual dining market, they will be joined by real innovation in secondary markets like France and the UAE, where well-entrenched eating out cultures have created real incentives for innovation.
For more information on the global casual dining market, see the latest research: Global Casual Dining Market
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