Fast food chains as we know them are dying — here's what could replace them

suburb food hall

Mega-chains like McDonald's, KFC, and Dairy Queen, have dominated the fast food industry for decades. From the suburbs to the cities, fast food restaurants are everywhere.

But in recent years, Americans have become increasingly interested in fast-casual food. The percentage sales growth of legacy fast food chains has nearly flat-lined since 1999, according to The Washington Post. Meanwhile, fast casual sales skyrocketed by 550% from 1999 to 2014, and they're expected to reach $66.9 billion by 2020.

Fast-casual restaurants, like Nic's Organic in Chicago's suburbs and B.good in suburbs throughout the tri-state area, offer healthy meals with fresh, local ingredients. Their menus are often influenced by what regional farmers can grow in-season.

The rise of healthy fast-casual provides an opportunity to re-invent the fast food industry, especially in suburbs, Rob Polacek, Chief Creative Officer and Partner at Puccini Group, told Business Insider. He believes suburban food halls — fast-casual establishments that feature community gardens, communal dining, and meals by local purveyors — could be the future of fast food.

Check out his designs below.

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With the rise of fast-casual and delivery, a number of fast food chains have begun closing in suburbs across the US. Subway, the largest restaurant chain in the US, shut down 359 outposts in 2016 — the first time in history the chain experienced a net loss in locations.

Source: Business Insider

Polacek wants to re-purpose vacant fast food locations as "suburban food halls," which he defines as places to buy, sell, and eat local food.

"Developers are going to have to re-think what to do with existing property to maintain value," Polacek said.

As opposed to typical fast food chains (which offer the same menu at most locations), each food hall would serve dishes that focus on the region's cuisine. Menus in Maryland suburbs might focus on meals with blue crab, for example.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider