Fast casual restaurant

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A fast casual restaurant is a type of restaurant, found primarily 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 an intermediate concept between fast food and casual dining, and typically priced accordingly. The category is exemplified by chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Culvers, Zaxby's, Noodles & Co., Panera Bread,[1] Pizza Ranch, and Shake Shack.


The concept did become popular in the United States in the early to mid-1990s, and did not become mainstream until the end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s.[2]

During the economic downturn beginning in 2007, fast casual dining saw increased sales to the 18–34 demographic.[3] Customers with limited discretionary spending on meals tend to use it on dining perceived as healthier.[3]


Publisher and founder of Paul Boner is credited for coining the term "fast-casual" in the late 1990s.[4] 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.[5] 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."[6]

The company Technomic Information Services defined the term "fast-casual restaurants" as meeting the following criteria:[7]

  • 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 (July 25, 2014). "Hold the Regret? Fast-Food Seeks Virtuous Side". New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2014. 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. ^ "2010’s Twenty Largest Fast-Casual Franchises". BlueMauMau. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Jargon, Julie (February 1, 2010). "As Sales Drop, Burger King Draws Critics for Courting 'Super Fans'". The Wall Street Journal (Yahoo! Finance). Retrieved February 1, 2010. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Fast Casual Trademark Serial Number: 75017852". 
  6. ^ "Formula for Success". Restaurant Hospitality 80 (7): 81–86. July 1996. 
  7. ^ "What exactly is fast casual?". Franchise Times. January 2008. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved January 23, 2011.