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In this video you can learn all about the Fast Casual Executive Alliance.  Recorded at the recent Fast Casual Executive Summit join Paul Barron, Alliance Chairman – Louis Basile, Alliance President and Linda Duke, Alliance Secretary as they discuss the action plans for 2009 and major programs the Alliance will be working on.

Decided in our annual board meeting here in Denver, CO, the board of the FCA has moved to begin an aggressive campaign of awareness, market positioning and best practices for 2009.  The board was able to meet here in Denver to begin a whole new era for the Fast Casual Executive Alliance.

Here is a great movement currently underway by the National Restaurant Association.  The FCA is proud supporter of the Conserve movement by the NRA.

After reading Chris Anderson’s book, “The Long Tail” last year, I realized that the segment of fast casual was the proverbial long tail business case for the restaurant industry. The idea behind niche products reaching the powerful consumer-demand curve has been hard to do in the past. But with the proliferation of technology and information sharing among consumers, the long tail really does match well with what the fast-casual restaurant is embarking upon.

The fast-casual segment is a network of entrepreneurs, brand leaders and operators that sport as many as 600 to 700 fast-casual concepts in the U.S. alone. A year ago, I think many would say that the growth would have a limitation and that there was just too much choice. Now, the consumer has spoken once again and has shifted the very landscape of how we grow businesses in the new-age restaurant space. Brands that look to regional or even hyper-regional concepts will continue to grow and do very well.

Granted there will be many concepts that do not make it, but there will be many more that do. Niche products just like niche media has a very powerful appeal to consumers and the demand will not diminish anytime soon.

Another thing that will affect this long tail of fast casual is the cost of energy and commodities. Additionally, local sustainability efforts will impact the restaurant business in a very big way over the next five years. In my column last year, “The Buck Stops Here”, I revealed that Starbucks had broken the golden rule of consumer demand and would be punished for it soon. With store closings, a retraction of menu items, the re-focus of their music business and more to come, they are a great example of how big brands may not power the fast-casual segment like the casual dining and QSR growth of the 80’s and 90’s. Instead, highly customized, premium quality and massive choice will help the fast-casual segment break all the rules of the restaurant trade. Build to scale, and scale to build, will no longer be the management mantra spouted in brand-building conference rooms across the country. Rather, it will be create the concept to fill the need of the hyper-brand consumer.

Fast Casual has another trump card that is looming in the current recession. They fill the need of high quality at a reasonable price. Fuel could be $7 bucks a gallon by this time next year and this will only support the regional growth of concepts and reinforce the spending habits of consumers. This is a new time, one that we have not faced in the history of the modern restaurant business. We are all in a new place now.

Several members of the Fast Casual Executive Alliance, including alliance president, Louis Basile, of Wildflower Bread Co.; Marc Geman of Spicy Pickle; Larry Reinstein of Fresh City; and Alan Hixon of Freebirds World Burrito, participated in the Fast Casual Phenomenon education panel. The panel also included FCA board Chairman Paul Barron, Linda Duke of Duke Marketing and Valerie Killifer of Fast Casual magazine.

The Panel was standing room only as these executives shared their thoughts on the growth and direction of the fast-casual segment.

Additionally, Paul Barron was granted an interview with the new National Restaurant Association Chairman, Michael Kaufman. See the video below.

All in all, this was a great showing for the FCA and allowed us to forge a new relationship with the NRA as we move our agenda forward to make the fast-casual segment stronger than ever.

The Fast Casual Executive Alliance has named Louis Basile of Phoenix-based Wildflower Bread Co. as president of the special interest group and executive board. “I am very excited to be involved in such a great initiative in our restaurant segment,” Basile said.

The Alliance, formed by Paul Barron, publisher of Fast Casual magazine and executive vice president of NetWorld Alliance, will help develop ideas for the highly popular Fast Casual Executive Summit, held this year in Denver, as well as building fast casual restaurant industry awareness. The Fast Casual Executive Alliance represents more than 375 leading fast casual restaurant companies that actively engage in and support the development of the fast casual restaurant business. The FCA is dedicated to the continued growth of the fast-casual restaurant segment, consumer awareness of the fast-casual restaurant business, and continued support of legislative issues that will serve the entire restaurant industry.

The 2008 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, to be held May 17-20 at Chicago’s McCormick Place is the must-attend event of the year for anyone covering the restaurant and hospitality business.Highlights this year include:

* The Culinary Scene area, where top chefs will showcase their creativity with food and alcohol beverages.

* 65+ free education sessions on topics including environmental/sustainability issues, menu and culinary trends, profitability, recruitment and retention, technology and more.

* Specialty pavilions focusing on organics, franchising, technology, international cuisine and more.

* Kitchen Innovations Award recipients showcasing the most cutting-edge equipment in the world.

More than 2,150 exhibiting companies will showcase the newest and most innovative products and services on the market and draw 74,000 industry professionals from all 50 states and 115 countries. Programming will feature trendsetting chefs and restaurateurs, leading experts, celebrities and more.

New this year is the International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event (IWSB), held in conjunction with the Show May 19-20. IWSB is the industry’s first venue focusing exclusively on beverage alcohol.

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