What is Fast Casual Dining?

Fast casual restaurant concepts offer the convenience of fast food without the full service of fine dining. Industry analysis, trends and opportunities for fast casual restaurants.

Fast casual restaurant concepts offer the convenience of fast food without the full service of fine dining. Fast casual dining consists of a more inviting sit-down ambiance, and often, the ability to build your own meal. The menu consists of better quality ingredients that can be found at most fast food establishments.


TYPICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A FAST CASUAL RESTAURANT

  • Limited service or self service
  • Off-premise and on-premise dining 
  • Lower average meal price than fine dining 
  • Made-to-order food with more complex flavors 
  • Upscale, unique, or highly developed decor
  • No drive-through

Fast Casual Dining Industry Analysis1

$17.02

Average Ticket Size

$47 billion

U.S. Fast Casual Sales2

25,118

Fast Casual Chain Units2

63%

Name hiring, training, and retaining staff a top challenge

88%

Name Facebook as social media platform of choice

58%

Raised menu prices to offset costs in 2018

Fast Casual Chains

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

Fast Casual Innovators

These are fast casual restaurants that are redefining the industry

Fine Dining vs. Fast Casual

Fast Casual vs. Casual Dining

Fast casual restaurants have limited table service, whereas casual dining restaurants employ servers and front of house staff.

Fine Dining vs. Fast Food

Fast Casual vs. Fast Food

Fast casual restaurants allow guests to build their own meal, whereas fast food restaurants have a shorter time to order and often include drive-throughs.

Fast Casual vs. Fine Dining

Fast Casual vs. Fine Dining

The guest experience at a fast casual restaurant is quicker, whereas in fine dining restaurants, guests sit and experience a meal from start to finish.

Fast Casual Customer Experience

The customer experience in a fast casual restaurant is markedly different than in other concepts.

  • Stand in line
  • Order from a cashier at the counter
  • Order from a cashier in line
  • Build your own meal
  • Pay for food
  • Take to go
  • Eat at a table

Fast Casual 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
Cashier
General Manager
Shift Supervisor
Deliver Driver

BACK OF HOUSE
Dishwasher
Line Cook(s)

Fast Casual Dining Menu Contents

Fast casual menus are comprised of items that are quick for a service line to assemble, as well as easy for a guest to enjoy.

To the right are some examples of items from popular fast casual restaurants' menus. 

Technology in a Fast Casual Restaurant

Fast Casual Nation

Changing the Way America Eats

Chop Shop

A Fast Casual 2.0 Concept That is Shaking Up the Fast Food Industry

The Anatomy of Fast Casual

Aaron Pool, TEDxEvans Churchill

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