The Top 20 Quick Service Restaurants in the UK + How to Open One

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Caroline PriceAuthor

What is a quick-service restaurant?

A quick-service restaurant is exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant aiming to provide food and service quickly and efficiently. Quick-service restaurant, also known as QSR, is the restaurant industry term for this specific segment of restaurants. 

A quick-service restaurant can be a fast-food restaurant chain or a just fast-casual restaurant. There’s significant overlap in the definitions, though some say that fast-casual belongs in a different category (and not within the quick-service restaurant definition), with slightly slower service than a traditional quick-service restaurant. Typically, quick-service restaurants offer food at a lower price point, with little or no table service, and a casual atmosphere.

Top 20 quick-service restaurants in the UK

The quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry in the UK is characterised by a diverse mix of traditional fast food and modern offerings. You can find everything from classic sausage rolls to fancy sandwiches and fish and chips – all provided by quick-service establishments. 

Here are the top 20 quick-service restaurants in the UK. 

  1. Greggs
  2. McDonald's
  3. Subway
  4. Starbucks
  5. Pizza Hut
  6. Nando’s
  7. Costa Coffee
  8. Pret A Manger
  9. KFC
  10. Burger King
  11. Pizza Express
  12. Wagamama
  13. Wetherspoons
  14. Caffé Nero
  15. Krispy Kreme
  16. Bella Italia
  17. Five Guys
  18. Papa John’s Pizza
  19. Harvester
  20. Harry Ramsden's


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How to open a quick-service restaurant in the UK

While all of the top 20 QSRs in the UK are massive fast food chains, not every quick-service restaurant has to be — and in reality, most are not. You don’t need a drive-thru, greasy fried chicken, and a broken ice cream machine to be a successful QSR in the UK. If you’re looking to open up your own quick-service restaurant in the UK, here is what you need to know. 

1. Create a business plan

The first step to starting any business is creating a business plan and the fast food industry is no different. A quick-service business plan is a blueprint for your entire project and it explains in detail how you will finance, operate, market, staff, and run your business once you’re open. Understanding your own business model will make the rest of the opening process simpler.

Here, you’ll talk about your company overview (what kind of quick-service restaurant are you? What might your menu items be?), your operations (who are your suppliers? What is your staffing and specific service model? Are you part of a franchisor or independent?), your technology (will you use kiosks or are you fully counter service? What quick service restaurant POS system are you going to use?) and even more detail that will help you get everything going (what differentiates you from your competitors? What quick service restaurant trends are you capitalising on?). 

No matter where you’re at in your QSR ownership journey, a business plan will organise your vision and ensure that nothing is overlooked. 

2. Secure financing

The initial investment of starting a quick-service restaurant can be really expensive, even if you’re just looking at franchise fees, and most people don’t have that money sitting in the bank. Fortunately, restaurant financing is available, and there are numerous options to consider for your quick-service restaurant in the UK. 

Identify the purpose of your loan—understanding why you need the financing is the first step. Then, select a loan that aligns with your specific requirements, ensure it is the best fit for your financial needs. 

Finally, put together a strong application, make sure to gather all necessary documents and information to present a compelling case for approval. This approach will help secure the loan that best suits your needs while also increasing your chances of a successful application.

3. Obtain licenses and permits and set up business structure

To open a quick-service restaurant in the UK, you'll need several licences and permits, including the following:

  • Food Hygiene Certificate
  • Premises Licence
  • Personal Licence
  • Health and Safety Certification
  • Public Liability Insurance

You may also need a music licence for playing recorded music. The specifics can vary by location, so it's essential to check with your local council for detailed requirements.

You’ll also want to work with an accountant or solicitor to help you set up your tax paperwork and to make sure your permits are all in order. Licences take time and money to acquire. If you're serious about opening a quick-service restaurant in the UK, get a jump start on procuring them early on in the process.

4. Find your location and purchase equipment

Finding a great location can be difficult, and it’s often worth enlisting the help of a commercial real estate agent. If you have a lot of connections within the industry in your area, keep your ear to the ground and see if any recently closed restaurants need someone to take over their spot.

Once you have your location secured, finding equipment — new or used — to fill it up and get it ready for service is your next step.

5. Create your menu

Put together your menu, taking into account food cost, the supply chains involved, the labour required to make everything every shift, and what kind of food you’re trying to highlight at your quick-service restaurant in the UK. Of course, keep in mind that many quick-service restaurants in the UK operate on a build-your-own model, so consider whether or not your restaurant will too. 

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6. Hire your staff 

A great staff is the backbone of a successful restaurant. 

The key to success here is providing a restaurant workplace that provides great pay, solid benefits, a standout culture, and opportunities for growth and development. 

For hiring hospitality staff in the UK, platforms like Caterer.com, Culinary Agents, and Hospitality Jobs UK are highly recommended. These job boards cater specifically to the hospitality sector, offering a range of posting options for employers seeking quality candidates.

7. Create a marketing plan

Set up your grand opening for success and get customers in the door with great marketing. The best place to start is by creating your restaurant marketing plan - where you can set goals, learn best practices and tips, and plan out your marketing calendar and budget for that critical first year.

Don’t forget about social media too. Consider how you’ll present your quick-service restaurant’s brand on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, X, and TikTok. Ideally, you’ll want to grow and develop new content strategies.

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8. Open your doors

Get your quick service-restaurant off to a flying start with a successful grand opening. Here are some helpful tips to get you started, and generate early sales. 

There should be signs, balloons, banners, and — hopefully — a buzz around town for the event. Reach out to everybody you know and invite them to come. Depending on the type of quick-service restaurant, live music and activities can help draw even more crowds.

The quick-service restaurant industry in the UK is massive with plenty of growth and opportunities, and with this information in your back pocket, you’ll be set up for success.

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