What is Casual Dining?

A casual dining restaurant is a full-service restaurant with a fun, comfortable, laid-back atmosphere and affordably priced menu.

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TYPICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A CASUAL DINING RESTAURANT

  • Guests are waited on by a server or bartender
  • Comfortable, laid-back dining atmosphere
  • Moderately priced menu; often serve alcohol
  • Typically have televisions in either the dining or bar area 
  • Popular with families and the younger demographic, sizable repeat customer base

Casual Dining Industry Analysis1

$36.98

Average Ticket Size

$4.1 billion

U.S. Casual Dining Sales2

114,244

Casual Dining Units2

38%

US Market Share

94%

Use Facebook the most to market their restaurant

44%

Of owners, operators, and managers cite high operating and food costs as their biggest operational hurdle

Popular Casual Dining Chains

These are fast casual restaurants with 1,000+ units. Read More

Casual DesInnovators

These are fast casual restaurants that are redefining the industry

How Casual Dining Restaurant Concepts Compare

Casual Dining vs. Fast Casual

The main difference between a casual dining restaurant and a fast casual restaurant is that the former is full-service while the latter is not.  Though they share the same ambiance, the average check size in a casual dining restaurant is typically double that of a fast casual concept. Casual dining restaurants often serve alcohol and appetizers; fast casual restaurants do not.

Casual Dining Vs. Quick Service

What separates casual dining restaurants from quick service restaurants is that casual dining restaurants are full service, whereas quick service restaurants are not.  Quick service check sizes and table turn time are drastically smaller than casual dining restaurants.

Casual Dining vs. Fine Dining

A casual dining restaurant is a full-service concept with a laid-back, comfortable, family-friendly ambiance and an affordable menu; a fine dining restaurant has an upscale ambiance, a dress code, a chef-curated highly-priced menu, and service held to the "white tablecloth" standard.

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Casual Dining 
Customer Experience

The customer experience in a casual restaurant shares similarities with other other concepts; the biggest differentiator is that a casual dining concept is typically full service. 

  • Greeted by a host/hostess
  • Host/hostess will bring guest to their table or direct them to seats at the bar (if applicable)
  • Atmosphere and decor are laid-back and comfortable
  • Attire is casual
  • All orders made through a server

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Casual Dining Restaurant Staff

Here are the typical roles within a casual dining restaurant's front of house staff and back of house staff.

FRONT OF HOUSE

  • Host/Hostess
  • Server
  • Bartender
  • Barback
  • Manager
  • Asst. Manager
  • General Manager
  • Busser

BACK OF HOUSE

  • Lead Cook
  • Line Cook(s)
  • Prep Cook
  • Expo/Runner
  • Dishwasher
  • Busser

Casual Dining Menu Contents

The menu in a casual dining restaurant is typically populated with familiar fare. Guests come to casual dining restaurants because of their propensity to serve dishes and drinks the general public recognizes; they can rely on a casual restaurant to make quality meals without any surprises.

To the right are some examples of dishes served at popular casual dining restaurants. 

Technology in a Casual Dining Restaurant

The Convergence of Casual and Fine

Danny Meyer, TEDxManhattan

Is Casual Dining Over?

Paul Barron looks at millennial social restaurant visit traffic in casual dining as a predictor of the decline in casual dining sales.

Table Setting - Casual Dining

An animated training on how to set a table at a casual dining restaurant.

Sources:
1 https://pos.toasttab.com/restaurant-management/restaurant-success-industry-report
2https://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/Events-Groups/17_SHOW_PPT_5-4-compressed.pdf