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Taco Bell's New Concept Prime Example Of Fast-Casual's Growing Popularity

LOS ANGELES, April 30, 2014 () – The news last week that Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell chain would be launching a U.S. fast-casual concept that includes serving lobster in a taco shell shouldn’t come as any surprise to industry officials. Not when there’s clearly money to be made in the fast-casual sector.

According to recent research from the NPD Group, the U.S. fast-casual segment’s growth in traffic far surpassed that of every other restaurant segment in the 12-month period that ended last November, the fifth consecutive year that’s happened.

NPD found that total customer visits to fast-casual establishments rose 8% during the time period, compared to flat traffic overall for all restaurant segments. The reason is that fast-casual concepts are continuing to capture market traffic share by meeting consumers’ expectations, said Bonnie Riggs, the research firm’s restaurant industry analyst.

Hence the launch of U.S. Taco Co., Taco Bell’s fast-casual concept scheduled to open later this summer in Huntington Beach, California. Don’t expect 99-cent tacos here. The menu, which will consist of 10 different soft-shell, open-faced tacos as its initial entrees, will sell for as much as $7 and include such ingredients as Maine lobster, brisket from Texas and Wisconsin cheese. A second U.S. Taco location, which Taco Bell executives say will also be located in Southern California, will have a liquor license.

Fast-casual food is growing in popularity. Even fast food is jumping on the bandwagon.

Nevin Barich is the Food and Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence. Email him here or follow him on Twitter here.

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