Quantcast
Food

Millennials Drive Sustainable Food Practices at Fast-Casual Restaurants

Earlier this year McDonald's announced that its CEO Don Thompson was stepping down after one of the iconic burger chain's worst years on record. The very next day, Shake Shack, a scrappy young burger cart turned global restaurant chain with something of a cult following, announced the value of its initial public offering had increased to $675 million. While Shake Shack's value pales in comparison to McDonald's longstanding multi-billion dollar business, it's a signal of changing restaurant trends, especially among millennial diners.

Shake Shack is one of several emerging "fast-casual" restaurants like Panera, Five Guys and Chipotle that appeal to millennial diners with elevated, healthier, ethical and more sustainable food experiences. Shake Shake and McDonald's both serve burgers, but that's where similarities end.

Millennial diners are moving away from traditional fast food towards healthier, more sustainable fast casual options.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Shake Shack, for example, prides itself on building eco-friendly restaurants out of recyclable and sustainable materials, paying employees well above minimum wage and serving only hormone-free, vegetarian-fed, humanely-raised beef. Chipotle also sources sustainable food products and recently made waves when it removed pork carnitas from the menu in locations throughout the country because its supplier did not meet the chain's ethical standard.

Meanwhile, traditional fast food and fast-casual restaurants like McDonald's are falling under fire for questionable ingredients, labor issues and antibiotic-ridden chicken. The company launched its transparency campaign in the U.S. (already successfully rolled out in Canada and Australia) to address customers' concerns about what is in their food, but it has been met with skepticism.

Despite attempts to appeal to diners with fresh menus and new marketing campaigns, restaurants like McDonald's are losing footing with millennial diners. In fact, according to NPR, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, TGIFridays, IHOP, Applebee's and Chili's combined are worth less than Chipotle. While it could be a sign of the end for some, other traditional fast food restaurants are trying to pivot to keep pace with front runners like Chipotle.

Taco Bell, for example, is testing its own fast casual concept Taco Co. in California. The restaurant is a far cry from Taco Bell's $0.99 value menu, selling tacos featuring Mahi Mahi, lobster, brisket and more for up to $7 each. Will it work?

We won't likely see any of the major fast food brands slip away any time soon, but they will have to reinvent their offerings to appeal to a new generation of diners. According to restaurant industry experts, the best ways to appeal to millennial diners are to imitate fast casual concepts, provide ample build-your-own customization options, accept mobile payments, offer artisan beer and wine on site, and appeal to their desire to minimize environmental impact by using recycled materials and sustainably sourced ingredients.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

6 Common Food Additives Used in the U.S. That Are Banned in Other Countries

6 Healthy Chain Restaurants That Your Kids Will Love

McDonald’s Is Curbing Use of Antibiotics in Chicken, But Does It Go Far Enough?

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Shutterstock

September 2017: Earth's 4th Warmest September on Record

By Dr. Jeff Masters

September 2017 was the planet's fourth warmest September since record keeping began in 1880, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and NASA this week. The only warmer Septembers came during 2015, 2016 and 2014. Minor differences can occur between the NASA and NOAA rankings because of their different techniques for analyzing data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.

Keep reading... Show less

Shocking Photo of Dehorned Black Rhino Wins Top Award

Africa loses an average of three rhinos a day to the ongoing poaching crisis and the illegal rhino horn trade. In 2016 alone, 1,054 rhinos were reported killed in South Africa, representing a loss in rhinos of approximately six percent. That's close to the birth rate, meaning the population remains perilously close to the tipping point.

This year, the Natural History Museum in London awarded photographer Brent Stirton the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year grand title for his grisly image of a black rhino with its two horns hacked off in South Africa's Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Smallholder agriculture in southern Ethiopia. Smallholder farmers are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Leah Samberg

How Climate Change and Wars Are Increasing World Hunger

By Leah Samberg

Around the globe, about 815 million people—11 percent of the world's population—went hungry in 2016, according to the latest data from the United Nations. This was the first increase in more than 15 years.

Between 1990 and 2015, due largely to a set of sweeping initiatives by the global community, the proportion of undernourished people in the world was cut in half. In 2015, UN member countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which doubled down on this success by setting out to end hunger entirely by 2030. But a recent UN report shows that, after years of decline, hunger is on the rise again.

Keep reading... Show less
Pixabay

Two Graphs Explain Why California’s Wildfires Will Only Get Worse

By Molly Taft

The deadly wildfires ripping through Northern California are just the latest in a season of record-defying natural disasters in the U.S. As the death toll passes 40, reports of Californians hiding in pools as their houses burn and scenes of devastated homes and vineyards add to 2017's apocalyptic picture of how climate change is impacting America today.

As the Trump administration guts environmental protections and undermines science, California is one of the states leading the way on climate action. Ironically, experts agree the state can expect devastating fires like the ones in Napa to become the new normal. Drier and drier conditions and creeping temperatures in the American Southwest, definitively linked to climate change, serve to create tinderbox conditions for massive, catastrophic fires to explode.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Leonardo DiCaprio / Facebook

Leonardo DiCaprio Invests in Plant-Based Food Company

Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, but eating a burger doesn't have to come with a side of guilt.

Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio has invested in Beyond Meat, the makers of the world's first vegan burger that's famously known to look, smell and even taste a lot like the real deal.

Keep reading... Show less
www.facebook.com

Guard Dog Wouldn’t Leave Goat Flock During California Fires—And Lived to Tell the Story

By Andrew Amelinckx

The fire the Hendels barely escaped was part of the Northern California firestorm that has so far claimed 40 lives—including one of their neighbors, Lynne Powell—destroyed countless homes, and caused billions of dollars in damage.

"Later that morning when we had outrun the fires I cried, sure that I had sentenced Odie to death, along with our precious family of bottle-raised goats," Roland Hendel wrote in a recent Facebook post.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate activists Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein shut down Enbridge's tar sands pipelines 4 and 67 in Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2016. Shutitdown.today

Judge Allows Vital 'Necessity Defense' for Climate Activists

By Jessica Corbett

In a decision that is being called "groundbreaking" and "precedent-setting," a district court judge in Minnesota has ruled that he will allow oil pipeline protesters to present a "necessity defense" for charges related to a multi-state action by climate activists last October.

In his decision last week, Judge Robert Tiffany ruled that four activists who participated in the #ShutItDown action—in which pipelines across five states were temporarily disabled, halting the flow of tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S.—may present scientists and other expert witnesses to explain the immediate threat of climate change to justify their action.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

Why Are Incarcerated Women Battling California Wildfires for as Little as $1 a Day?

As raging wildfires in California scorch more than 200,000 acres—roughly the size of New York City—more than 11,000 firefighters are battling the blazes, and a number of them are prisoners, including many women inmates.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox