Quick Service, Full Service, and Fast Casual: What’s the Difference?

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Quick Service, Fast Casual, and Full Service: What’s the DifferenceIf you’re starting a restaurant, you’re facing a lot of decisions that determine how your business will be run. From the concept of your restaurant to the kinds of restaurant equipment you’ll need, there are a lot of factors that determine a restaurant’s success. If you’re not sure what kind of service format would best fit your restaurant, read on for ShortOrder’s breakdown of the types of restaurant service formats.

First, the quick service restaurant, or QSR. Also known as “limited service” restaurants, QSRs are all about fast service and convenience. The price point of the average meal at a QSR is about $5, and the meal might include “combo” options for a better price with additional sides or drinks. QSRs have no table service, have simpler interior décor and ambience, and are often structured with a single service counter and/or a drive-thru. Although food at QSRs is known for being of a lower quality, a trend toward upscale food in QSRs is currently on the rise. Expanded menus with specialty items are becoming popular. Although QSRs can be difficult to manage due to a high turnover rate, they are easier to franchise. Popular restaurant equipment items in a QSR could include Gen2 fryers, Vulcan ranges, and commercial microwave ovens.

Full service restaurants, which can include both casual dining and fine dining, include full table service and a “sit-down” meal with a relatively extensive menu. There is a heavier emphasis on décor and ambience in a full service restaurant. Casual dining is often accompanied by a family-friendly atmosphere and professional but informal service staff. Fine dining has upscale ambience and a professional, knowledgeable wait staff. Casual dining restaurants can attract a wide customer base with better affordability and wide menu selection, but must compete with a wide range of full service restaurants. Fine dining establishments are known for their quality service, food, and wine, but may find it hard to compete with the lower price points of casual dining restaurants, QSRs, and fast casual restaurants in a poor economy.

The fast casual restaurant—a relatively modern term—is sort of a hybrid between quick service and casual dining. Fast casual is all about speed and convenience, but sets a price point between $7 and $10 per meal and aims for better service and higher-quality food. Recently, new fast casual restaurants have become more concept-focused, like the idea of the fast casual pizza restaurant, or fast casual potato dishes. The focus may also be on customizing your food order, so fast casual restaurants often have restaurant equipment like combiwave ovens to produce hot, customized orders quickly. Fast casual restaurants also have a wide customer base. However, like QSRs, fast casual establishments can also experience a lot of turnover.

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Fast Casual Restaurant Trend Alert: Potatoes

Friday, November 15th, 2013

We like to keep an eye on trends in the fast casual segment here at ShortOrder, and recently we spotted one that’s particularly a-peel-ing. Apparently potatoes are what’s hot—so to speak—in fryers across the nation. Because the potato is a versatile vegetable (boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew), there are many possibilities when it comes to catering to customers in need of a creative spud.

The potato trend is actually one that’s resurfacing. It was a big deal back in about 2008, when it seemed that every oven in a quick service restaurant was making room for potatoes and sweet potatoes. Now, a recent twist has found a place in the fast casual industry, and a few places, like Potatopia, have even made the potato the star of a single-item menu. Not unlike the fast casual personal pizza trend, the potato trend focus seems to be mostly on variety, customization, and toppings.

So how can you hop on the potato trend bandwagon?

Start by exploring all your potato possibilities. First, the things you can do to the actual potato: bake, boil, mash, twice-bake, thrice-bake, pancake, smash, sauté, fry, pie, and chip are just a few that come to mind. When you’re equipped with the right restaurant equipment, there is no limit to the number of ways you can cook a potato.

Next, the art of dressing the potato. Old standbys like cheese, sour cream, and butter are, of course, a good idea, but you can easily branch out to let customers personalize their potatoes with sauces, meats, vegetables, and more.

Then make sure you’ve got the right equipment. The kitchen at Potatopia, for example, houses a double-decker convection oven, fryers, and a hybrid convection-microwave oven. Gather up a variety of restaurant equipment, and make sure you get high-quality equipment like Gen2 fryers. If your menu is based around a single item, you don’t want your main ingredient to be a lackluster part of the dish.

Has your fast casual eatery capitalized on the potato trend? What kinds of restaurant equipment and fryers have you used? Let us know by connecting with ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook!

 

Fast Casual Pizza: What’s Next for Commercial Restaurant Equipment

Friday, August 30th, 2013

The fast casual restaurant is on the rise, cooking up a frenzied variety of foods on eateries’ commercial restaurant equipment to great financial success. According to the NPD Group, the number of fast casual chain restaurant units increased by 7% from last year’s spring census, and visits to those units increased by 9% during the same time frame, even as traffic in the rest of the restaurant industry was flat.

“Fast casual” is defined as somewhere between a fast food restaurant and casual dining restaurant. The idea is that fast casual restaurants offer higher-quality food than a fast food establishment, without the full table service that comes with a casual dining restaurant. Included in the fast casual category are restaurants like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Noodles & Co., Smashburger, and Fazoli’s.

Fast casual has been around for decades, but there is a newer trend that has been surfing the fast casual wave that has consumers excited. The “fast casual pizza” trend is one that has been growing for some time now, but seems to have spiked in the last year or so. The concept of fast casual pizza has been referred to as “the Chipotle Mexican Grill of pizza,” meaning that customers proceed through an assembly line of ingredients to build their own single-serve pie. The kind of commercial restaurant equipment and ovens used to craft these personal pizzas vary from conveyor ovens to deck ovens. Consumers appreciate the fast casual pizza concept thanks to its ability to create an American favorite in a healthier, more personalized way, while still serving it quickly using powerful commercial restaurant equipment. Current contenders in the world of fast casual pizza eateries include Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza, The Pizza Studio, PizzaRev, MOD Pizza and Pie Five Pizza, but there are also places in the market like Zpizza, a fast casual pizza chain that has been baking made-to-order pies for 27 years.

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What’s your opinion of the fast casual pizza trend? What commercial restaurant equipment have you used in your fast casual restaurant? Look up ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook and let us know!

 

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