NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The success of Chipotle  (CMG)CMG and Panera Bread (PNRA)PNRA have spawned new companies looking to expand on the fast casual restaurant experience. The latest is New York's Dig Inn.

What Chipotle has done for restaurant design and food quality hasn't gone unnoticed by Adam Eskin, Dig Inn's founder and CEO.

"I think a lot of the concepts out today that are focused on higher quality in a fast format, I think we all have to give thanks to Steve Ells and Chipotle for sort of paving the way," Eskin said in an interview conducted at a Dig Inn location in New York. He added, "They were really the pioneers in saying you can deliver high quality ingredients, classical cooking techniques, in a fast format and deliver value."

The new generation of fast casual restaurants, led by energetic leaders who are highly knowledgeable about all facets of the food business, can't come quick enough for the industry. According to the National Restaurant Industry, sales for the industry are projected to grow a mere 3.6% in nominal terms this year, or 1.2% adjusted for inflation. The growth rate is being held back by lower average guest checks and guest counts at the established fast-food chains. According to research firm NPD Group, traffic counts were flat for quick-service restaurants in the year ended November 2013, while same-restaurant sales for McDonald's (MCD)MCD and Burger King (BKW)BKW have fallen an average 0.8% in the past five quarters.

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