Foodie Friday: Fast and Foreign–3 Ways Fast-Casual is Going Global

Quick question: In an age where people are increasingly more choosy about what they eat, how much they eat, and the even story behind their food, how do you revitalize the image of tried-and-true American fast food?

These days, the answer seems to be written on the golden arches: Make it less American. We’ve highlighted the popularity of ethnic foods in previous blogs, but today’s Foodie Friday focuses more closely on the realm of fast-casual dining—and 3 smart ways savvy retailers have chosen to follow the ethnic food trend to spice up their menus, inspire their customers, and reinvent our notion of fast food beyond burgers and fries.

1. Feast from the East: You might be wondering, more specifically than “ethnic,” which non-American flavors are trending in the fast food scene? According to recent reports, Asian recipes are the hottest menu items of the moment (and no, not just because they’re spicy!). While American consumers have been fans of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai foods for ages, many are eager to try cuisines from other Asian cultures, such as Vietnamese, Korean, and Filipino specialties.

The successful chains will be those who offer eastern options that don’t sacrifice authenticity in an attempt to pander to the American palate. Foodies in general—and Gen Z customers in particular—are hungry for adventurous food experiences.

2. Drive-Thru Dieting: As much as we love a great burger and fries (you’re still our favorite, In-N-Out!), most people’s busy schedules demand frequent dining on the fly—and thanks to menu trends, eschewing fried fare for something more fresh and nutritious is becoming easier for us all. Many chains have experimented with healthier options in the face of skepticism and criticism, but trending toward ethnic dishes means bringing exotic flavor along with nutritional benefits. Fast-casual restaurants like Subway and Chipotle, which each have a health halo and reputation for eco-responsibility (respectively), lead the way for a focus on even more nuanced health-related customer priorities, such as local sourcing and specialized diet items like gluten free and vegetarian. These restaurants also allow for more customization that other chains typically offer, which gives customers the freedom to design their meal according to the ingredients they prefer to eat or need to avoid.

3. Travel via Takeout: Many diners, especially among the Millennial and Gen Z population, are in a culinary bind—they live adventure-seeking lifestyles without the money to travel the world. For many, the solution is to see the world by tasting it. Fortunately, those afflicted with a both a restless spirit and a big appetite can transcend borders on a budget thanks to the rising popularity of ethnic fast food. From the Filipino comfort food at California-based Jollibees, to Chipotle’s Southeast Asian concept ShopHouse, to the Vietnamese sandwich supplier Báhn Shop in Dallas, curious foodies don’t have to go far or break the bank to experience authentic overseas flavors. Many chains are also embracing the multiculturalism within America by offering items and services that connect to particular groups. One inventive example is the pizza restaurant Pizza Patron who ran a “Pizza Por Favor” promotion and gave away pizza for free to anyone who ordered in Spanish!

Hungry? Go try some fast-casual ethnic food for yourself, and enjoy your weekend!

Happy Foodie Friday!



And, of course, for something a little weird…


It wouldn’t surprise most of us to learn that folks in the southwest enjoy Mexican food, Floridians like Cuban fare, or that Louisiana residents are fond of Cajun cuisine, but did you know that D.C.-dwellers are crazy for Belgian food? A recent map published by Huffington Post shows the surprising, disproportionately popular food preferences that dominate each state. Check it out here!

Posted in: Food and Drink, Food Experiences, Food Trends, Foodie Friday, Health and Diet, Industry Trends, Restaurants

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