The restaurant industry has been facing difficult times recently, with the ravages of the declining economy having prompted price reductions in several ways: new items at lower prices, more small-plate and half-serving options, and more fixed-price offerings. Yet, amid such difficult times, it is the restaurant franchising businesses which are continuing to thrive. There has been a significant rise in popularity of the fast-casual healthy eating experience. Consumers are becoming more health conscious, but do not want to spend a fortune on eating out. Therefore, their primary criteria when choosing a place to eat are the quality of the food combined with value for money. They also take into consideration such factors as a great atmosphere, which is neither too formal nor too fussy, efficient friendly service and a varied menu.
The health food industry is increasing year on year and this is reflected in the fast-casual healthy concept, which is rapidly expanding throughout the country. These restaurant franchises serve nutritious yet tasty food including salads, organic steaks and burgers, risottos and soups. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, low fat or low carbohydrate meals will often be menu options. Drinks on offer may include vitamin-packed fruit smoothies, specialist coffees, detoxes and herbal teas. Skimmed, soya and rice milks may be offered as substitutes for full-fat cow’s milk.
Restaurant franchises specialising in healthy eating typically attract customers who are environmentally aware or concerned about animal welfare and who are looking for a healthy meal at an attractive price. Food is often organically sourced and/or locally produced, with many businesses using Fair Trade and free-range products where possible. Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the food they are eating. More people are presenting with food allergies or sensitivities and are demanding, for example, wheat-free or dairy-free alternatives. Many customers are also weight conscious and opt to eat at a restaurant franchise specialising in healthy fare because they know they will be able to enjoy a tasty meal, snack or drink that is low in calories but high on taste. Healthy menu choices, which are filling without being fattening, can include Italian flat-bread pizza with reduced fat cheese, grilled free-range chicken breast with organic spinach salad, vegetarian nut and mushroom risotto or a fresh basil and tomato soup with wheat-free bread.
With the rapid expansion of the healthy eating restaurant franchise sector, it is clear that many consumers are demanding a fast-casual eating experience that is healthier than the traditional greasy burger and fries or fat-laden pizza. Outlets range from a “kiosk” approach on major concourses, shopping malls, rail and bus stations, outdoor events etc, through to a full “cafe” environment. This restaurant franchise opportunity has enormous growth potential and is likely to continue growing in the foreseeable future.