Fast-casual restaurants are on a roll, with Slotted Spoon joining the lineup

There's a land rush under way in the fast-casual industry, with restaurateurs nationwide frantically trying to grab a piece of this fast-growing segment. Just how fast is it growing? According to Technomic, eight of the ten fastest-growing chains in America (with sales of at least $2 million) are of the order-at-the-counter, wait-a-minute-while-your-food-is-made-fresh variety.

"Fast-casual growth continues to outpace that of quick and full service," the Technomic website reports. "Though it's still a small, emerging segment (comprising six percent of the restaurant industry) its influence is great. With origins in once-innovative concepts such as Fuddruckers and Koo Koo Roo and the 'home meal replacement' trend -- as well as prime development seen in chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread and Five Guys Burgers and Fries -- the fast-casual sector has evolved and expanded. The old terminology 'adult fast food' is no longer an adequate definition."

See also: - First look: The Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery opens - Denver's five best homegrown, fast-casual chains -- from Noodles to Chipotle - Is there room for Korean food in the growing fast-casual sector?

Burritos, salads, noodles, burgers and even Korean restaurants have already staked a claim here in Colorado. Now Alex Comisar, Johnny Coast and chef Jensen Cummings have joined the frenzy with a new (for Denver, at least) concept: meatballs.

Find out what kind of territory they've carved out with their hand-rolled pork, beef, chicken, salmon and veggie balls when my review of Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery is posted here tomorrow.

And in the meantime, if you were starting a new fast-casual restaurant, what would your concept be?

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