NEW YORK – As some claim indicators are pointing to an improving economy, fast-casual restaurants and large chains are positioned for growth and investment, while traditional casual restaurants and smaller chains face a more challenging financial picture.

So said Bob Bielinski, managing director, corporate finance — Restaurant Industry Practice for CIT Group Inc., a leading provider of financing to small businesses and middle market companies, in U.S. Restaurant Industry Update, which is the most recent in a series of in-depth executive Q&As featured in CIT’s Executive Spotlight series.

“On any given day, more than 130 million people are served by the foodservice industry in America,” he said. “Restaurant industry jobs are critical entry level positions and provided a first job for more than 25% of adults in America. According to the National Restaurant Association, the industry employs approximately 12.7 million people, or 9% of the U.S. workforce."

Fast-casual brands have not had a problem raising capital, as long as the type of capital (debt or equity) is appropriate for the company’s stage of development, he added. “I think that consumers are looking for higher-quality product and more convenience in their lives; thus the rise of fast-casual concepts. There are many chains in the fast-casual space that have tremendous growth potential and several larger ones with enough stores to provide assurance to lenders of getting repaid.”

New York City-based CIT is a bank holding company with approximately $45 billion in finance and leasing assets that provides financial products and advisory services to small and middle market businesses.