• FastCasual's hot list: 8 predictions for 2013

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FastCasual's hot list: 8 predictions for 2013

It’s the “Most wonderful time of the year,” which means it’s also time for our 2013 predictions.

Without much ado then, here they are (in no logical order):

1. Hispanic and millennial marketing messaging will make seismic gains in brands' budgets. This will include bilingual campaigns, websites, mobile apps, etc., and a greater focus on millennial-friendly programming such as Funny or Die, Comedy Central and MTV.

2. Mobile technologies will continue to accelerate at a wild pace, with QR codes, augmented reality, robust apps and gaming components requiring more marketing dollars. Also, the mobile payments industry is expected to account for $670 billion worth of global transactions by 2015, and the fast-paced limited-service segment is well positioned to capitalize. In 2012, brands such as Starbucks and Taco Bell began implementing the platform, while others such as Burger King and Subway rolled out tests. Expect this to take off across the segment, including at smaller chains.


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3. Competition will be even more intense than it was in 2012, when QSR brands, such as Wendy's and Taco Bell, began offering high-quality fare in hopes of competing with fast casuals. Casual dining concepts are also trying to compete in the space; Applebees’, Shoney’s and IHOP, for example, each launched express models this year. Fast casuals, in turn, are also doing all they can to stay ahead, taking a page from the QSR playbook. Panera, for example, expanded its drive-thrus.

4. Digital menu boards will become the rule rather than the exception, as the technology's cost starts to come down, and as chains prepare for the Obamacare provision that mandates the display of nutritional information.

5. Online and social media marketing will continue to pick up. Expect brands to crowdsource their social network for menu ideas, use fan photos and quotes for marketing messages, jump into newer channels such as Pinterest and Instagram, and pick up the frequency of social promotions. NPD Group reported that 6 percent of restaurant visits in Q1 2012 were influenced by online marketing, with that influence expected to increase. NPD Analyst Bonnie Riggs said, "It's no longer a question of if online marketing should be a part of a restaurant operator's overall marketing plan; it's a must-have." 

6. Catering will increase. Fast casual chains are poised to outperform all others in the catering market, with projected growth at 12 percent, according to Technomic. A variety of chains, including Capriotti’s, Firehouse Subs and Dickey’s Barbecue, expect major sales increases from catering in the next year.

7. New global markets will be conquered. Johnny Rockets just entered Nigeria, for example, while Yogurtland announced expansion plans for Australia, Smoothie King  opened in Singapore and Cosi entered Costa Rica.

8. On the menu:

  • Coffee/specialty beverage competition will intensify, with new hot, cold and single-serve innovations continuously rolling out.
  • Children's menus will continue to evolve into guiltless indulgences.
  • Eggs will be a major focus, as more restaurants jump into breakfast. Consider Bruegger's Bagels new Santa Fe Sandwich with eggs, sausage and jalapeño cream cheese on a bagel. Starbucks also launched breakfast sandwiches.
  • More alcohol will appear on menus as fast casuals test the waters. Starbucks started experimenting with beer and wine this year, while Chipotle launched margaritas in the Kansas City market.

Photo provided by ChristmasStockImages.com.

Read more about trends and statistics.

Cherryh Butler contributed to this story.

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