Fast Casual and Grocery Chains Expanding Rapidly in the Suburbs

Key Takeaways

  • Fast-casual restaurant chains are expanding in Charleston’s suburban submarkets.
  • Grocer wars continue.
  • New roads are coming to Summerville.

Fast-Casual Steps Up Its Game

Fast-casual restaurants, those with limited-service and made-to-order meals, are expanding in the Charleston retail market. Since 2015, several brands have expanded and others have entered the market, including Zoe’s, Tijuana Flats, Which Wich and Barberitos. These fast-casual restaurants usually occupy space between 1,500 and 3,500 square feet in dense suburban and urban retail corridors and serve made-to-order and customized pizza, burgers, tex-mex or sandwiches.

Growth of the fast-casual market is creating stiff competition between similar brands. To differentiate themselves, national and regional fast casual restaurants have focused on the enhancement of the customer’s experience while at their locations. One way they can do this is by offering more services, such as delivering food, clearing dishes from tables, greeting customers as they enter or walking by tables to offer refills, napkins and utensils. Additionally, brands are redecorating the interior with modern furniture, new lighting and paint colors to increase the restaurant’s atmosphere.

The growing millennial population and the national interest in healthy and locally sourced food has impacted the menus of fast-casual restaurants as well. Brands can attract customers of all age groups by offering higher quality, locally sourced food and healthier and customizable menu items. Chipotle, Panera and Zoe’s are among those offering organic or locally sourced ingredients, while Which Wich, MOD Pizza and Smash Burger offer customizable menu items, providing customers with new meal options each visit. Fast-casual restaurants are expected to continue expanding in Charleston’s suburban areas.

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