Casual Encounters

Restaurant chains launch healthy “fast casual” spinoffs

“Fast casual” is the fastest growing foodservice segment globally, reflecting dining culture’s continued march towards modernity and accessibility. Restaurant chains are owning this trend by launching new projects that combine consumers’ desire for share-worthy dining experiences with their prioritization of healthy eating.


The overwhelming popularity of Veggie Pret, Pret a Manger’s vegetarian pop-up in London and NYC, inspired the company to make the offshoot a permanent fixture, as CEO Clive Schee announced on his blog. Schee attributes its success to the rise of clean eating, a movement in line with the restaurant's vegetarian-friendly menu of raw salads, “superbowls,” and smoothies. The plant-based move is paying off; two weeks into the pop-up’s opening in June, the company reported that sales were up by 70% from the previous year. Pret is now planning to open a second Veggie Pret in London with more to potentially follow.


To further organic, plant-based eating in NYC, the makers of Le Pain Quotidien launched Le Botaniste, a botanical-based, apothecary-inspired restaurant on the Upper East Side. The spinoff is designed to evoke the feeling of a classic apothecary; details like glass tincture bottles and white lab coats coalesce as a visual representation of the health benefits of mindful eating. The menu is 100% organic and entirely botanical, which means there are no animal products used on-site. The restaurant also encourages DIY meal-building, allowing guests to design their own hot or cold entrée from the many bases, spreads and toppings available.


Twin Cities-based Parasole Restaurant Holdings announced that it will open Field Day, its first fast casual spinoff of the Good Earth brand, in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Sharing Good Earth’s commitment to natural, unprocessed ingredients and healthy preparation techniques, Field Day’s menu will be created by James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee and include categories like greens, sandwiches and wraps, and grain bowls. The kitchen will have a dedicated zone for catering and takeout that can be ordered through Bite Squad or another similar delivery service, and the company is also developing a smartphone app.