The Difference between QSR, Fast Casual & Casual Dining Restaurants

The restaurant industry is booming. Eateries of all types are popping up left and right daily.

So how are restaurants classifying themselves these days? What distinguishes one restaurant concept from another?


Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) is the official restaurant terminology for a “fast food” establishment, with well-known names such as Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell and Wendy’s being prime examples of this type of restaurant segment. Most QSR environments are centered around functionality, with speed and efficiency being primary goals.

  • Price point usually ranges from $5-$8 per meal.
  • Limited menus which usually consist of handheld sandwiches/burgers, wraps, and a limited selection of salads (which are pre-packaged).
  • Offer plastic seating and table tops, table service rarely provided.
  • Food is most often taken To-Go.


Casual Dining

Casual Dining is what most consumers would classify as your typical “restaurant”. Large chains such as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, TGI Friday’s, Chili’s and Applebee’s are amongst the most popular casual dining options in the restaurant industry.

  • Price point is $15 per meal on average.
  • More extensive menu, with additional chicken, fish, and beef dishes to choose from.
  • Normally serve alcohol with a bar in house.
  • Ambiance tends to be more “upscale” than a QSR or fast casual location.
  • Offers more comfortable seating with booth and table options, paired with dimmer lighting.


Fast Casual

Fast casual is a blending of the fast food and casual dining experiences and is currently taking the restaurant industry by storm. Customers expect speed of a QSR, but with higher quality ingredients, resulting in a fresher tasting meal.

According to Technavio, the market for fast casual cuisine is projected to reach $66.87 billion by 2020. Names like Five Guy’s, Panera Bread, Moe’s, Quizno’s Subs and Chipotle top the charts as some of the biggest names in the industry.

  • Price point on average is $12 per meal.
  • Utilize locally sourced produce and other artisan ingredients.
  • Prepare food onsite in front of the guest.
  • Offer healthier options, including gluten free and vegetarian dishes.
  • Usually does not offer table service- gests place order at the counter then wait in the “assembly” area.

Regardless of which type of restaurant concept you operate or visit, one consistent theme throughout QSR, fast casual and casual dining is the focus on the guest experience. Each restaurant type continues to adapt to current market trends and consumer expectations, in an attempt to remain competitive in the market.