#COeats 3: Healthy fast food? There is such a thing

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DENVER -- What do you do when you're a young health nut and can't find a place to have dinner?

“Mid 20's, hard-working guys, and we ate out all the time.  And we were constantly frustrated that when we would go out to eat, there wasn't a place where you could go out to eat and feel like you were making a good choice,” said Anthony Pigliacampo.  So he and his business partner decided to start their own restaurant.  It’s called Modmarket.  You get your food fast, but it doesn’t look like fast food.

“We just kept talking about it and complaining about it and said ‘why don't we make something where we would eat every day, we think there's a lot of other people like us who want simple, healthy, made from scratch food that's fairly affordable, and if we put that in a nice restaurant environment, we'd eat there every day,’ and (we) thought other people would too,” Pigliacampo told FOX 31 Denver.

Turns out they were on to something.  Young people just aren't eating the way they used to.  From 2003 to 2013, consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and eggs went up by 20 percent in the US.  That's healthy eating.  And that's money in the bank for fast casual restaurants like Modmarket.  It’s also forcing a change in the entire restaurant industry.

“All natural products, no preservatives. You're starting to see Taco Bell adopt that.  Subway is removing all artificial ingredients, and those QSR (quick service restaurants, or fast food) concepts are forced to take steps to make their quality higher.  And that's a great thing.  We want to see the industry move in that direction,” Pigliacampo said.

Modmarket's co-founder says there are a couple other reasons more people are eating like this.  One game changer has been television.

“I think the general consumer has become much more educated on what quality food is.  And with the Food Network being one of the most widely watched networks on TV, people are seeing ‘Chopped’ and they're seeing what beautifully plated food looks like.  So when they come in to Modmarket and see something that looks similar, they go ‘Oh yeah, I'll gladly pay a little bit more to have food like that,’” Pigliacampo said.

And believe it or not, social media apps- like Instagram - may also be fueling an interest in fast casual food.

“You know, everyone taking pictures of what they eat.  When I was in college, I never knew what other people were eating, what their plates of food looked like, whereas now I know what my neighbor is eating.  I could go look on his Instagram feed right now,” Pigliacampo said.

“We always say, beautiful food is great food.  And fast casual delivers that next cut in terms of quality, and it shows well.  People recognize that,” he added.

Whatever the reason for their success, Modmarket just hopes it keeps going.  So far, so good.  Since opening in Boulder in 2009, they've expanded to 12 restaurants in Colorado and Texas.  Another half dozen are coming soon, as they grow their effort to change the way Colorado and the rest of the country eats - with a new kind of fast food.  Where they put much less emphasis on the fast part.

“The more we slow down our eating, and the higher the quality, that's going to solve a lot of the food related health problems in this country,” Pigliacampo said.

CONTINUE READING: #COeats 4: What’s the next big thing in Denver dining?

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