2020 Fast Casual State of the Industry


This year’s report reveals how around 200 fast casuals have been coping with the pandemic, as well as polling them on the usual challenges faced each year.


People all over the world agree that 2020 has been the craziest year of their lives, and restaurant owners are clearly in that camp.

The pandemic has forced nearly one in six U.S. restaurants (representing nearly 100,000 restaurants) to close either permanently or long-term, and about 3 million restaurant employees are still out of work. The restaurant industry is on track to lose $240 billion in sales by year’s end, but that’s not the whole story.

Although times have been hard, many fast casual restaurants have found ways to stay in business by applying for Paycheck Protection Program loans, as well as adapting business models to focus more on curbside and delivery orders.

For many, that included redesigning space in both the front- and back-of-house to expand contactless ordering while following social distancing mandates. Others had to launch mobile from scratch, however.

Most brands also got a little creative with their menus, creating family meal deals, take-home taco, burger or pizza kits and selling necessities like toilet paper and milk.

Although the pandemic is not yet in the rear-view mirror, there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel with customers getting used to their new living conditions.

This year’s Fast Casual State of the Industry report reveals how about 200 fast casuals have been coping with the pandemic, but it also polls them on the usual challenges they face each year. It’s been an honor to tell their stories.

Also included are commentaries from industry leaders and experts:

Importance of diversity in franchising
By Kim Burrows, Franchisee, Clean Juice

How brands can survive the short lifespan of “trend food”
By Mark Setterington, co-founder of Island Fin Poke

“Dark Kitchens” shine bright
By Geoff Alexander, President & CEO, Wow Bao

Pivoting operations during COVID-19
By Amy Horn, VP Operations, sweetgreen, and Rebecca Nounou, Chief of Staff, sweetgreen

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