The next great American fast casual restaurant is among us - SmartBrief

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The next great American fast casual restaurant is among us

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The following is an excerpt from Paul Barron’s new book, “The Chipotle Effect,” slated for publication in 2012. Visit the website to get the full copy of “The Chipotle Effect.” Reprinted with permission by the author.

Our business will evolve. That much is certain. It’s been evolving since the first McDonald’s opened its doors. What’s changed is the speed of that adaptation and change. It’s increased a hundredfold. So while the consumer love affair with fast casual is at a peak and the future looks extremely bright, it’s impossible to predict where the evolutionary process will take us.

The increasing power of the Web and social media will have a profound impact on the restaurant business over the next two decades. For those who adapt well, the impact will be unimaginably fast growth and profitability. For those who resist, the effects will be devastating.

The next Chipotle Effect is out there right now, probably taking shape in the worlds of mobile media, information search, or a new iteration of the social network. Figuring out the nature of this next leap forward for fast casual is the Holy Grail of this industry. Fast casual has forever changed the landscape of the American restaurant industry in a way that has given us the chance to connect meaningfully to the new consumer in ways that fast food never could. Only through foresight will we leverage this opportunity.

The opportunity is one that I continue to see in my dreams, one that positions the restaurant business with the new age consumer in a way that that is revolutionary. We connect to more people on a daily basis than any other business sector on the planet, and it is our opportunity to win or lose. Fast casual will have a global impact on leading nations that embrace these connected consumers. The future of what we are about to see in the restaurant industry will take some major resolve to change, one thing the restaurant industry does not do well. This is where the innovators of fast casual, I believe, will make the difference, but only a select few will get it. There are only so many visionaries like Steve Ells and Howard Schultz out there. We must change now; the consumer is blazing past us on a rocket ship loaded with iPhones, tablets, and social networks, and the future of this business is dependent on how we connect with them at this critical time.

The combination of quality, speed, access and customer experience is changing almost every sector of consumer activity, from banking to health care. We all benefit from the work of the innovators who have revolutionized the means for connecting with and servicing the consumer. There will be many such players in the fast-casual segment. Some will copy what’s already being done and confuse the consumer. But the real Chipotle Effect — that revolutionary means of tapping in to what the consumer cares about and loves — cannot be copied. It’s about personal insight and instinct as much as technology and consumer science.

Want more? Don’t forget to read the other excerpts in this series.

About the author: Paul Barron is founder and CEO of DigitalCoCo as well as founder of and Follow Barron on Twitter @paulbarron.