As Chipotle struggles to win back customers, fast casual dining craze continues

Fast casual winners and losers in 2016
Posted at 7:19 PM, Dec 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-15 21:19:28-05

DENVER -- In the most recent quarter, Colorado-based Chipotle's sales are down 22 percent with stocks down to about the same. 

That news coming more than a year after a brief flurry of food poisoning incidents at the popular burrito chain.

“Chipotle is still working towards building that trust back," said Colorado Restaurant Association spokeswoman Carolyn Livingston.

Livingston said despite all of Chipotle’s issues, it remains the number one fast casual chain in the U.S. and fast casual dining is still exploding in popularity.

“People want something fast, they want something simple, yet they want something consistent and something good for them," Livingston said.

“It’s true,” said one casual diner. “You can almost always see the kitchen in fast-casual restaurants, which always gives me a sense of security.

So, who’s hot and who's not in fast casual?

Technomic Research recently revealed its consumer choice winners and losers based on 100,000 customers polled.

Schlotzky's came in No. 1 for "great taste,” Jimmy John's scored for "top takeout" and Raising Cane's Chicken for most loyal following.

Colorado remains a hotbed for fast casual.

In addition to Chipotle, Qdoba, Mad Greens, Smash Burger, Noodles, Tokyo Joe's, Pizzeria Locale and Boston Market are all founded and based here.

"We're a little bit ahead of the curve nationally for some of those food trends," said Livingston.

Colorado also has three of the top five cities in the U.S. for the most fast casual restaurants per capita, according to NPD research.

The top 5:

1) Ft. Collins/Loveland
2) Denver metro
3) Boulder
4) Tallahassee, Fla.
5) Lexington, Ky.


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