Is there room for Korean food in the growing fast-casual sector?

Jaedo Ryu has big plans for Bop & Gogi, the fast-casual Korean restaurant that he and his wife opened last fall in Centennial (and I review this week). His goal of opening five locations and ultimately franchising may sound ambitious, but who knows? As Steve Ells likes to say, he didn't set out to be one of the nation's fast-casual leaders when he launched Chipotle in Denver twenty years ago. See also: - Bop & Gogi: A fast-casual Korean concept takes off in Centennial - Photos: A closer look at Bop & Gogi - Kimchee and roast chicken in Centennial -- and soon in my kitchen

Growth in the fast-casual sector remains white-hot, and the end is nowhere in sight. Seven years ago, Fast Casual magazine predicted that fast casuals were in their infancy. As then-editor Valerie Killiser wrote, fast casual "is a business component similar to drive-thru when it originated. After drive-thru was invented, it proved effective in a variety of disparate businesses like banks, drug stores and dry cleaners. Today, it's hard to imagine life without drive-thru." Fast casuals may have started out as acorns, but they're destined to become mighty -- and game-changing -- oaks.

A peek at Forbes's leading fast-casuals might give Ryu extra incentive. Among the top ten are Panera Bread (#1) and Saladworks (#9), with Italian, sandwiches, burgers, Chinese, fried chicken and our hometown favorite Chipotle Mexican Grill (#2) also on the list. In other words, no one cuisine seems to have a lock on the sector.

Ready America? Here comes kimchi.

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