A Harris Poll survey, sponsored by Subway, discovered that about 84 percent of Americans are not eating the correct daily intake of vegetables. Because of this, millions of people became truly aware of how their abysmal food habits can affect their health in the long run thus, people started eating organic and fresh produce. This trend was started by the so-called Millenials, who appeared to be in command of their balanced diet, eating twice as many as their veggies as their predecessors.
While it seemed great for people, it is very jinxed for restaurants like Subway because people are starting to say goodbye to their old fast food meals and welcoming fast-casual places, that offer fresh ingredients prepared in-house, with open arms. Other local food places try to blend in by producing their own, grown in the backyard variety of vegetables and fruits.
Fast food chains try to follow suit through the use of the trial and error healthy food options. For most part, this meant reengineering the menu by offering reduced fat fries, egg white only muffins, and fat-free patties. Unfortunately, “healthy” does not mix with “fast food” that’s why these experiments did no good and were considered as flops.
However, due to the initiative of Chipotle, many fast food restaurants realized that healthy options needed to be more than just removing fats from the food. This was the beginning of a revolutionary approach to providing fast yet nutritious meals, starting with gluten-free options down to vegetarian. Interestingly, more customers have shown delight over the changes and have made an effort to actually try the options.
The evolution of consumer taste and fast casual concepts
The change in people’s food choices has become astounding that even president and CEO Paul Steck of Saladworks was taken aback by how green and healthy American became. For the first time in 29 years, the company is actually considering adding roasted Brussels sprouts to their more than 100 units who made entree salads. It may sound out of this world but after seeing how diverse the American palate has become, Steck can do nothing but believe and make the most out of it.
The CEO of Grabbagreen, a two-year old healthy options food place, can’t believe it either. When Keely Newman and Kelley Bird thought of their concept because of the limited restaurants that offer healthy meals, they didn’t see in their timeline this change in American food consumption. Newman shares that if they have established Grabbagreen five years ago, they might be packing their things and closing the place down.
Newman shares that initially, she and Bird wanted to have a place where their children can eat something nutritious and quick without the hassle of going home and cooking them. Grabbagreen serves whole foods with no preservatives and basically organic, as much as possible. The meals they serve include smoothies and innovative bowl meals like quinoa noodles and a big portion of barbecue sauce made from yogurt and agave.
The introduction of local flavor
The options that fast casual franchises offer may be fresh but most consumers, with their array of taste buds, started looking for more, preferably something that is produced locally. Steck finds this difficult to fulfill as a fast casual founder as their locations are incapable of producing high-quality produce. While it’s possible to do, due to weather constraints, volatility of the ingredients, and inconsistent crop production, it is something most fast casual owners try not to rely on too much.
As most people know that organic and whole foods cost more than non-local produce, most fast casual franchises maintain their prices at an affordable level. This will not only affect the sales projection but it also provides as sort-of leverage when the restaurant wishes to give out deals.
The bigger picture with fresh produce
Fad diets and nutrition concerns will always be a factor to consider if the fast casual chain will make it or not but somehow, Newman believes the Americans new found love of veggies will be forever etched in the food industry history. That is why she believes big fast food chains such as McDonald’s will be soon moving forward to embracing healthier options. People are more aware as to how fresh produce will significantly improve their health.
Take a look at BurgerFi, a burger joint that combines healthy options, gourmet burger, and fast food dining into a favorite hang-out place of most health-aware Americans. They use free-range beef for their patties and most of their toppings, sides and sauces are made from scratch. Ronn Pearson, the creative director of the burger place, shares that incorporating organic and free-range ingredients to fast casual meals is not a fad but a belief everyone should start adapting.