Executive Briefing

The desk lunch is on hold

How Sweetgreen, Chipotle, and fast-casual restaurants are changing their strategies for the times.

Field Trip
Photos courtesy Field Trip and Chipotle

Am I the only one a little nostalgic for the Sweetgreen line?

The rise of fast-casual restaurant chains — Shake Shack, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Dig Inn, Chopt — was one of the biggest trends of the last decade, optimized for a highly mobile form of urban consumerism.

It’s clear that we won’t be returning to a version of that old “normal” any time soon in the US — the virus is still in control. NYC Subway ridership is still down about 75% from last year. Big employers like Google expect remote work to be the default well into next year. TSA airport screenings are still down around 70%.

Everyone still needs to eat, but people are buying food differently during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has forced fast-casual chains to change what they do and how they do it — like any other business that hopes to make it to 2021 and beyond.

Chart of the Day

COVID-19 effect on US fast food and fast-casual restaurant spending chart Earnest Research

And what’s happening now — a potential multi-year rebooting of city and work life — is also pushing many of them to adjust future plans and strategies.

Sections in this 3,100-word report:

  • A massive shift to digital and e-commerce
  • Designing for delivery
  • Rethinking meals and menus
  • Considering new neighborhoods and store formats

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Dan Frommer

Hi, I’m Dan Frommer and this is The New Consumer, a publication about how and why people spend their time and money.

I’m a longtime tech and business journalist, and I’m excited to focus my attention on how technology continues to profoundly change how things are created, experienced, bought, and sold. The New Consumer is supported entirely by your membership — join now to receive my reporting, analysis, and commentary directly in your inbox, via my twice-weekly, member-exclusive newsletter. Thanks in advance.

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