The bakery cafe segment, which accounts for $5 billion in annual sales and over 3,600 units nationwide, has been able to successfully navigate the middle ground between quick- and-full service restaurants to outpace industry sales and unit growth for each of the past three years. Total bakery cafe units increased 4.2 percent, and bakery cafe sales increased 12 percent during those three years.

A new study by Technomic finds consumers fueling growth in this fast-casual sub-segment by visiting bakery cafes in larger numbers and by becoming frequent customers once they do visit. 71 percent of consumers have now visited a bakery cafe, up from 43 percent in 2008, and nearly three quarters of those consumers say they visit bakery cafe concepts at least once a month.

"Bakery cafe chains continue gaining market share in a zero-growth environment," says Technomic EVP Darren Tristano. "More consumers are visiting these restaurants and are gaining familiarity, but nearly one in three consumers surveyed still haven't been to a bakery cafe concept. Their most common reasons have to do with location and unfamiliarity. As more units open and as marketing efforts continue to boost awareness, there is little reason to think the segment will not continue to perform well."

To help restaurant operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry more effectively identify opportunities for growth and competitive advantage, Technomic developed the Bakery Cafe Consumer Trend Report.

Interesting findings include:

Technomic data indicates room for more variety on bakery cafe breakfast menus. A third of consumers (34 percent) strongly agree that they would visit bakery cafes more often for breakfast if their menus offered a wider variety of breakfast items.

The service element seems to be particularly important to users of bakery cafes. Three in four consumers (75 percent) report that the quality of service is very important when deciding which bakery cafe to visit, and about two-thirds (66 percent) consider the speed of service to be very important.

Wraps and sandwiches featuring artisanal breads are a primary focus of bakery cafe's menu positioning. A look at the most prevalent bread types for lunch and dinner sandwiches shows tortillas as the most-frequently mentioned sandwich bread, at 11.7 percent. Focaccia, positioned as a European-style artisan bread variety, ranks second (9.1 percent). Ciabatta, sourdough and pumpernickel have all increased significantly on bakery cafe menus since 2008.

Panera Bread is the clear leader in the segment, and has further strengthened its position in the bakery cafe arena over the past few years. About seven in 10 consumers polled (69 percent) visit and purchase food from the chain at least occasionally, and among Panera's visitors, 69 percent go at least monthly.

The 2011 Bakery Cafe Consumer Trend Report examines bakery cafe purchasing behavior, attitudes and preferences of more than 1,500 consumers. The report utilizes Technomic's exclusive MenuMonitor trend-tracking tool to provide an in-depth look at bakery cafe menus by daypart and examines the performance of 15 leading bakery cafe chains.

Additionally, data from Technomic's 2008 Bakery Cafe Consumer Trend Report is discussed throughout the report to provide a benchmark for many of the consumer trends discussed. Finally, report appendices feature detailed concept and menu profiles for 20 innovative and emerging bakery cafe concepts and full demographic profiles of consumers who visit and purchase food at 15 bakery cafe chains.

To purchase or learn more about this report please visit or contact one of the individuals listed below.