Shoppers are liking the fast-casual dining experience and the increasing trend of telling consumers from where their food is originating. In addition, retailers will likely be using more mobile technology and e-commerce in the coming year to hone in on customer shopping habits and offer more conveniences.
Dining chains like Baja Fresh, Chipotle, Panera Bread and Qdoba have provided landlords a way to spice up their properties over the past few years, according to reports from the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Sales in the fast-casual food industry hit roughly $35 billion in 2013, an increase of 11 percent over 2012, according to research firm Technomic. And preliminary data shows another estimated 10 percent growth spurt in 2014, officials say.
Will fast-casual dining’s growth continue in 2015?
“We absolutely think it will continue,” said Mary Chapman, senior director of product innovation, in a news release.
In addition to continuing sales growth, innovation is taking hold in the industry with such trends as made-to-order meals from restaurants. And locally, in Flower Mound and Highland Village, the trend has been toward farm-to-table dining with such chains as Modmarket and Prime Farm to Table, among others.
“People really dig the story behind what they are eating,” Chapman said in the news release. “Chipotle gets a lot of credit, for example, for its ‘Food with Integrity’ menu. They do a good job of telling the story of where the food came from and how it is grown sustainably or raised humanely.”
The use of social media has also proven to be beneficial in the restaurant business, officials say, showing the continued move to using technology to reach customers. Pinterest has also picked up in the retail world as more stores call attention to items emerging as Pinterest favorites.
The growth of mobile technology and e-commerce will continue in 2015, according to analysts and researchers.
In a November report, eMarketer projected the number of Internet users worldwide would surpass 3 billion in 2015 with nearly half of the world’s population accessing the Internet at least once per month.
For retailers, the rise of mobile technology also likely will increase opportunities to use customer data in ways to imnprove overall performance, officials say.
“Stores and malls that have Wi-Fi can use this technology to track traffic patterns, dwell times, repeat visits and more by triangulating people’s locations using the signals generated by their cellphones,” said Steven Keith Platt, director of Platt Retail Institute in Chicago. “It is a huge area right now.”
“The most popular analytic would be sales conversion: whether you are turning those shoppers into buyers,” Platt said. “If that isn’t happening, it could be for a myriad of reasons — everything from inadequate staffing on the floor to too many out-of-stocks to not setting up signage in the appropriate place. This technology clues you in to the problem.”
Other retail trends for 2015 will include growth in the same-day delivery phenomena, tracking technology, increasing use of mobile payment technology, curbside pickup and delivering information to consumers based on locations, shopping trends and more, according to the National Retail Federation.