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Fast Casual Restaurants: A Complete Guide to Start, Run, and Grow

Sahana Ananth
February 5, 2024
1 mins

Table of Content

What is a Fast Casual Restaurant?

Fast casual restaurants balance speed, customization and pricing. They offer higher-quality ingredients with an inviting atmosphere compared to traditional fast-food outlets. This restaurant model offers both dine-in and takeaway that meet the new trends and growing preferences of customers. The meals are fresh and made when ordered. It is often served within 5 to 10 minutes and at an affordable price.  

Key Characteristics of Fast Casual Restaurants

Certain characteristics make a fast-casual restaurant unique and different from other restaurant formats. Let's look at some examples to understand what fast-casual restaurants are. 


The fast-casual encourages the customers to sit and enjoy their meal. They give an overall ambiance similar to a casual dining experience. Look at Panera Bread; the atmosphere is cozy cafe decor, which makes it a perfect fast-casual place. However, that is not the case with Subways, where you order, pay and go.   


The ordering is usually self-served in fast-casual restaurants. The server then brings the food to you at the table. Some fast-casual restaurants also have drive-throughs, but not all have this option. Chipotle is an example of a fast-casual restaurant exhibiting both serve-at-table and drive-thru services.  

Pricing and Menu Options 

The average price at fast-casual restaurants is $11. It costs slightly more than fast food restaurants and less than casual dining restaurants. The reasoning behind these costs is that it has quality food, service, and ambiance. Fast casual restaurants also offer menu customization, and customers have various categories and items under each to choose from.  

An example of a fast-casual restaurant is Qdoba. This restaurant offers various food options at minimal prices compared to casual dining.  

Benefits of Operating a Fast Casual Restaurant

The growth of fast-casual restaurants in the US is only going up. A double-digit growth(as shown below) and an accelerating momentum make this model the ideal choice for small business owners. 

Here are a few other reasons to consider the fast-food casual restaurant model.  

1. Higher Average Order Value

Fast casual is not as expensive as casual dining. Besides, the quality of food they offer

is better than those of fast food restaurants. These restaurants can sell more items on the menu, add-ons, etc, increasing the average order value.    

2. Better Perception than Fast Food Chains

While fast food meals are cheaper to afford, they’re not good for health. The picture of frozen, lifeless vegetables and greasy food perceptions of fast food are entirely altered by fast-casual restaurants. With carefully curated menus and open kitchen cooking, more and more customers prefer these restaurants.  

3. Lower Operating Costs

The cost to operate a fast-casual restaurant is low, as fewer employees are involved. Technically, there are table service staff, a few cashiers, and intermediate staff between the servicing staff and the kitchen.  

How to Open a Fast Casual Restaurant in the US?

Fast casual Restaurants are positioned to offer the best of both worlds: experience and convenience. First and foremost, define your restaurant's theme by determining the type of cuisine and unique offerings for your customers. This sets the stage for a competitive edge and future expansion. Next, craft a comprehensive action plan encompassing logistics, supply sources, team management, quality control, branding, and marketing strategies. Carefully selecting the perfect site is crucial, considering factors like foot traffic, accessibility, competition, and demographics to match the local community's preferences.

Additionally, integrating technology is imperative for operational efficiency. Solutions like OneHubPOS streamline order delivery, kitchen integration, and seamless payments. Building a cohesive and well-trained team is vital to maintain brand consistency and enhance efficiency. Lastly, develop a savvy marketing plan that aligns with your brand values. Whether through promotional offers, Instagram trends, influencer collaborations, or traditional methods, smart assessments are key to a successful marketing campaign. Launch your fast-casual restaurant with a clear theme, robust planning, technology integration, a skilled crew, and a strategic marketing approach for lasting success.

Latest Trends in the Fast Casual Restaurant Industry

In the restaurant industry, the latest trends can influence your strategies. Here are the trends you should look out for if you plan to launch your fast-casual restaurant. 

1. Focus on Health and Wellness 

You must have noticed discussions about the keto diet, plant-based proteins, and vegan and paleo diets across social media. Even though none of these is particularly new, the discussions have motivated and shifted the focus of fast-casual restaurants, which is now a major focus for them. Health and wellness always emerge as prominent factors that shouldn't be taken lightly. 

2. Growth of Franchise 

Fast casual restaurants have the perfect economic climate to grow rapidly. With a stable economy and increased consumerism, fast casual restaurants are at the right juncture to serve people with busy schedules. You can witness the rapid deployment of franchises across vast arrays of locations, which suggests that this industry is not only getting back on its feet but also acquiring momentum. 

3. Technology Integration 

Enabling technology is an excellent way to attract customers as tech optimizes the experience for people. AI-enabled automation simplifies the order management process between the diners and the chefs and improves the customer experience. People find it more comfortable and appealing. In the context of fast-casual restaurants, this also enables quicker service times as there is no delay in information transfer, order priority will function as expected. 

4. Creative Strategies 

With tons of competition, fast casual restaurants need to be creative with their approach to gain fame. Standing out from the competitors is critical to the growth factor and customer churn. As the fast-casual restaurant segment gets crowded and other players start offering similar value propositions, we suggest you engage with your audience and create a strong brand identity. 

5. Sustainability 

Sustainability is a worldwide social notion that's quite serious, especially with the younger generation. They care about the planet and aren't afraid to portray that affection. Embracing sustainability can be a superb differentiator while also having real and feasible benefits on the side. From creating a solid brand identity and message to energy-efficient lighting, water-saving faucets, waste reduction, etc., restaurants can reduce operation costs and increase margins.    

Wrapping Up

Fast casual restaurants have advantages and are better than fast food initiatives that can be operated at a lower cost. Regardless of the type of restaurant that you would like to start, you'd need an efficient system that manages the inventory, menu, orders, payment processes, and cash.  

If these things are in place, you ought to give your customers a smooth and positive experience. Launch your fast-casual restaurant confidently with our user-friendly platform. Check out OneHubPOS today and start your journey at $1.

Sahana Ananth
Director, GTM - OneHubPOS

Sahana is a seasoned GTM leader with a passion for building startups. She excels in crafting GTM strategies for tech products, driving revenue growth.

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