The Current

Millennials push fast food industry to customize their meals

Millennials, it seems, want their food quick and customized and they are finding it with a new breed of restaurant called 'Fast Casual'. Today, By Design tracks how Fast Casuals are redesigning the fast food Industry.
Would you like some garlic aioli and sweet potato fries with that? How "fast casual" restaurants are redesigning the foodscape, and threatening to topple some fast food giants. (Robyn Lee, Flickr (cc))

McDonald's recipe for success hasn't changed much over the years -- serve up as many hamburgers as possible, as fast as possible, for as little as possible. But times have changed, and tastes have changed with them.

These days, the Golden Arches are beginning to sag a bit. The company is losing customers, and sales are slumping.

But there are slumps... and there are slumps. McDonalds is still a powerful global player, and it's still serving billions... but it's evident that more and more fast food customers are searching for greener -- and sometimes healthier -- pastures.

Their wishes are being met by so-called "fast casual" restaurants, which put a premium on quality ingredients and a pleasant dining experience. That means higher prices than what traditional fast feeders charge.

But "Fast Casuals" are still growing more quickly than any other restaurant sector. They include chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, and the New York-based burger chain Shake Shack, whose I.P.O. took Wall Street by storm last month.

Today as part of The Current's Project, By Design, we look at how fast casual restaurants are re-designing the fast food industry.

Paul Barron is the CEO of the Foodable Network and the author of "The Chipotle Effect." He was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Darren Tristano is the Executive Vice President at Technomic Inc., a research and consulting firm that specializes in the food and restaurant sectors. He was in Chicago.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sarah Grant and Julian Uzielli.