What Is The Difference Between QSR and Fast Casual?

What Is The Difference Between QSR and Fast Casual?

What does QSR mean in the restaurant industry? While terms like QSR and fast casual get thrown around in the restaurant industry, the clear definition of what level of service you can enjoy at each is somewhat unclear. Brands that previously described themselves as QSR or quick service restaurant, are now opting for a label of fast casual. What is the difference?

What comes to mind when you hear the term quick serve restaurant? A quick Google search provides the definition that a fast food restaurant is a specific type of restaurant that serves fast food cuisine and has minimal table service. Emphasis on the minimal table service. These brands often advertise their timeliness, appeal to the drive thru customer, and offer low price point items on their menus. They are traditionally what consumers call fast food, although, in the restaurant industry, we call these brands QSR.

From a PR standpoint, many brands are objecting to the QSR, or fast food, label, and instead, are labeling themselves (or asking journalists to label them) as fast casual. There is an industry opinion that fast casual is a more desirable label, but what is the actual difference in facts and service level?

Fast casual, by definition, is, a restaurant, found primarily in the United States, that does not offer full table service, but promises higher quality food than other fast food restaurants (with fewer frozen or processed ingredients). It is an intermediate concept between fast food and casual dining, and usually priced accordingly. The distinction here would be a claim to better food ingredients, a higher price point, and a target market that desires healthier choices.

There are a few key differences that help determine which category each brand would fall under, by industry standards. Quick serve restaurants are considered to be the fastest dining experience, with drive thru ordering, dining in, and some are even offering delivery services now. As a contrast, fast casual is considered slower than a true QSR, but faster than a traditional restaurant. It is normal to see a self order counter, with higher customer service, but not full on table side service. Fast casual will offer a more upscale or trendy feel, with options such as food trucks, organic food options, and updated menus. Traditional QSR’s typically offer the same menu options with seasonal updates and offerings, that customers will expect to see based on previous years.

For clarification, brands should be proud of their restaurants, regardless if they are quick serve or fast casual. After all, if you’re not going to be proud of what your company is bringing to the marketplace, how do you expect your staff or customers to be? Furthermore, how would you expect to attract this staff or your customer base? Brand loyalty is a must and should always be top-of-mind for continued success.

About The Company
OrderMatic Corporation develops solutions that enhance the customer transactional experience in new and innovative ways. OrderMatic designs and manufactures drive thru menu boards, branded next generation signage, pos and technology solutions, and drive in products and accessories for quick service restaurants, retail merchants, and sports and entertainment venues. For over 60 years, OrderMatic is the official drive thru and drive in partner everywhere.