Fast-casual restaurants grow more than 14% in 2006

by Staff
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CHICAGO — The fast-casual restaurant segment experienced more than 14% annual growth in 2006 compared with about 6% annual growth in the U.S. chain restaurant industry as a whole, according to "Top 100 Fast Casual Chain Restaurant Report" by Technomic, a market research agency.

Technomic estimated total sales for the segment at about $15 billion. Panera Bread led the category with nearly $2 billion in 2006 sales, which represented about 20% annual growth compared with 2005. Other highly successful restaurants included Panda Express, Chipotle, Boston Market and El Pollo Loco.

Darren Tristano, executive vice-president of Technomic Information Services, said some casual dining operators have been successful in carving out a niche in the fast-casual market through the use of brand extensions. Some are California Pizza Kitchen’s CPK ASAP and Don Pablos’ Pablo’s Fajita Grill.

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