Ask anyone what the quintessential American meal looks like and they’ll probably say, “A cheeseburger and fries,” and rightly so. This country has such a long history with fast food that it’s almost impossible to talk about the U.S. without mentioning fast food.

But the way we eat is changing, and it’s changing fast.

The Growth of Fast Casual Dining

According to market research from Euromonitor, “Fast casual dining has grown by 550 percent since 1999,” making fast casual a $21 billion a year industry. That’s more than ten times the growth of fast food over the same time frame. The numbers are clear; Americans want better food and they want it now.

Thanks to a massive shift in American eating habits and the booming fast casual dining movement of the past 15 years that iconic “American meal” is starting to look a lot healthier than mass produced, uniform portions roasting under a heat lamp. So to help you understand this rapidly shifting landscape, here’s a quick look at what’s driving America’s shift from Fast Food to Fast Casual.

The Informed Consumer

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to how you fuel your body. Americans have begun asking more questions about how their food is grown, sourced, stored, transported, and prepared. People want more than just nutritional facts. They want nutritional answers.

Fast casual dining is a response to those growing health concerns that fast food has largely ignored. The days of being satisfied with “Mystery Meatloaf Monday” are long gone.

Trust and Transparency

This growing awareness in where our food comes from and how it’s cooked has made transparency and open access central themes of the fast casual dining movement. Open kitchens are almost taken for granted now, when just a few years ago your food came out of a chute in a windowless room.

At fast casual restaurants like Nanoosh, you see every step of food preparation for your meal right before your eyes in an open kitchen. That honesty creates trust in the quality of your food, which is something that’s been sadly lacking in fast food chains for years.

Prioritizing Quality without Sacrificing Time

It’s no surprise that millennials make up the largest group of fast casual fans. Their fast-paced lifestyle and attention to work life balance means that they need to pack as much nutrition into the shortest amount of time possible. Unhealthy, unsatisfying fast food just isn’t an option for today’s motivated professional. Luckily, fast casual dining is a healthy, speedy solution whose time has come.

The ability to eat organic, locally sourced food is worth the $7-$11 price range that typically separates fast casual from $3-$6 fast food. This slight cost increase more than makes up for itself in lasting energy and continued productivity throughout the day without that pesky afternoon sugar crash.

Millennials are simply investing in their future health one meal at a time. By choosing to eat high quality food and more thoughtful meals in a fast casual setting, millions of Americans are showing that their health matters as much as their time.

Americans have spoken—we want quality organic food, and we want it fast. Luckily, fast casual groups like Nanoosh have answered the call for great food in a timely manner. Stop by any of our five Manhattan locations and taste firsthand the difference that fast casual dining can make in your workday.