Fast casual restaurant

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A fast casual restaurant is a type of restaurant in the United States that does not offer full table service, but promises a higher quality of food with fewer frozen or processed ingredients than a fast food restaurant.[1] It is a concept used in the United States, positioned between fast-food and casual dining. The typical cost per meal is USD $8–15.[2] The category is exemplified by chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Culvers, Zaxby's, Noodles & Co., Panera Bread,[1] and Shake Shack.


The concept did not become popular in the United States until the early to mid-1990s, and did not become mainstream until the end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s.[3]

During the economic downturn beginning in 2007, fast casual dining saw increased sales to the 18–34 demographic.[4] Customers with limited discretionary spending on meals tend to use it on dining perceived as healthier.[4]


Publisher and founder of Paul Barron is credited for coining the term "fast-casual" in the late 1990s.[5] Horatio Lonsdale-Hands, former Chairman and CEO of ZuZu Inc., is also credited with coining the term "fast-casual". ZuZu, a handmade Mexican food concept co-founded by Lonsdale-Hands in 1989, filed a U.S. Federal trademark registration for the term "fast-casual" in November 1995.[6] In the July 1996 edition of Restaurant Hospitality, editor/associate publisher Michael DeLuca calls Lonsdale-Hands a "progressive pioneer in the burgeoning 'fast-casual' market segment."[7]

The company Technomic Information Services defined the term "fast-casual restaurants" as meeting the following criteria:[8]

  • Limited-service or self-service format
  • Average meal price between $8 and $15
  • Made-to-order food with more complex flavors than fast food restaurants
  • Upscale, unique or highly developed décor
  • Most often will not have a drive thru

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Julia Moskin (25 July 2014). "Hold the Regret? Fast-Food Seeks Virtuous Side". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-27. These ambitious new chains make up only a sliver of the nation’s $683 billion restaurant industry. But all are within its swiftest-growing segment, "fast-casual", a subset of fast-food that includes places like Chipotle and Panera, whose offerings are marketed as a rung or two higher than those of Burger King or Taco Bell: fewer frozen and highly processed ingredients, more-comfortable seats, better coffee and (sometimes) healthier food. 
  2. ^ "Fast Casual – Insights for Innovative Restaurants". Retrieved 29 June 2011. 
  3. ^ "2010’s Twenty Largest Fast-Casual Franchises". BlueMauMau. Retrieved 29 June 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Jargon, Julie (1 February 2010). "As Sales Drop, Burger King Draws Critics for Courting 'Super Fans'". The Wall Street Journal (Yahoo! Finance). Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  5. ^ Wheelen, Thomas L.; Hunger, J. David (2006). Strategic Management and Business Policy: Cases (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-149460-2. 
  6. ^ "Fast Casual Trademark Serial Number: 75017852". 
  7. ^ "Formula for Success". Restaurant Hospitality 80 (7): 81–86. July 1996. 
  8. ^ "What exactly is fast casual?". Franchise Times. January 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2011.