The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (May 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
A fast casual restaurant, found primarily in the United States, 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 category is exemplified by chains such as Boston Market, Bruegger's, Captain D's, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Dig Inn, El Pollo Loco, Newk's Eatery, Noodles & Co., Panera Bread,Pizza Ranch and Vapiano.
The concept originated in the United States in the early 1990s, but did not become mainstream until the end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s. During the economic recession that began in 2007, the category of fast casual dining saw increased sales to the 18-34-year-old demographic. Customers with limited discretionary spending for meals tend to choose fast casual for dining perceived as healthier.
The publisher and founder of FastCasual.com, Paul Barron, is credited with coining the term "fast-casual" in the late 1990s. 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, leading Michael DeLuca to call Lonsdale-Hands a "progressive pioneer in the burgeoning 'fast-casual' market segment" in the July 1996 edition of Restaurant Hospitality.
The company Technomic Information Services defined "fast-casual restaurants" as meeting the following criteria:
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.
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