If you’ve been at least slightly aware of your surroundings, you can easily see that America is in the midst of a culinary explosion. With more dining options than ever before, there has never been a more exciting time to eat in America. That being said, perhaps it’s growing a little too fast. With so many new exciting great restaurants, the competition is at an all time high, and the industry has become oversaturated.
Perhaps at the centre of this is the “fast casual” movement. Many restaurants are nodding to successes such as Chipotle in creating easily-accessible concepts. It should be called the “hot bar” explosion, with ready-to-eat, hot food assembled in a neat, orderly fashion. This model has been easily adaptable in all sorts of different facets, from fast casual pho to pretentious leafy green salads. The problem with the trend is that sales are dropping because concepts are being birthed at an alarming rate. Simply put, the fast casual segment is doing well, but there’s just not enough traffic to justify all of these new openings.
Raise the price to keep the roof
This decrease in traffic has forced restaurateurs to raise their prices substantially, resulting in dining out becoming far more expensive than it has in the past. This has led to the majority of Americans opting for fast food over mid-priced restaurants, and in extreme cases, GROCERIES.
With supermarkets adding ready-to-eat options in a variety of different cuisines, it has never been easier to grab something quick and easy on the way home from the office. In examining this further, both restaurants on the extreme high-end and extreme low-end aren’t having nearly as much trouble as the mid-priced establishments. Fast food is an ever growing market, and with food taking the forefront of the American cultural discussion, high-end restaurants aren’t having trouble getting patrons in the door. Much like the dissolution of the middle class, the middle is dying, surely, but I’m not positive as to just how slowly. Places that charge roughly 20-25 dollars per person are having trouble, most likely due to the fact that patrons would rather shell out an extra 15 dollars on top of their bill for something a bit more interesting. And so it begins, the death of mid-priced chains. You have known these places well. The Chilli’s and Red Lobster’s of the world. No more will their fishtanks bear half-dead crustaceans that were never really destined for your dinner plate. Sad, isn’t it? Trust me, we’ll all miss those cheddar bay biscuits covered in their gooey, cheesy glory.
This golden age, if we can still call it that, is not everywhere mind you. It solely exists in major cities, where the young upper and middle classes can afford to eat out in excess in comparison to their rural counterparts. Elsewhere in the United States, establishments are closing on a daily basis. With food and labor costs rising on a steady slope, the middle, once again, is struggling. I’m not sure how to fix it, or if we should even want to change the trend; but it is important to note that the restaurant landscape is changing.