The Ever-Expanding List of Quick Service Restaurant Brands and Fast Casual Concepts
By Marcelle Mulier
If you would have asked me how I felt about Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) brands a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at you. Having grown up in an extremely health conscious family, I quickly adopted a negative outlook on any QSR concepts. I tended to put all Quick Service Restaurant brands under the same umbrella as fast food chains ― filled with nothing but high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified ingredients, and factory farmed meats.
Up until only a few years ago, I considered QSR concepts to consist of brands such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Little Caesars Pizza, Pizza Hut, Carl’s Junior, Taco Bell ― places I didn’t associate with eating well. Fast Forward to 2018, and the QSR landscape has evolved and expanded to include all kinds of food.
One of my favorite spots for a quick bite is my hometown’s Café Yumm!, a fast casual concept focused around vegetables as mains, organic ingredients, and faux-meat proteins. Café Yumm! was founded in 1997 in Eugene, OR, and has since expanded to over twenty locations. Little did they know in the 90s, that this concept was ahead of the game.
Today, we have a variety of noteworthy QSR brands such as: Los Angeles-based Lemonade and Mendocino Farms; MOD Pizza founded in Seattle, WA; Tender Greens from Washington D.C., Bay Area-founded Starbird; Super Duper Burgers; Souvla; Asian Box; Project Juice, and more. While the majority of these concepts have experienced extreme growth over the last 1-2 years, they are slated to continue significant expansion. There are a few different factors that set the brands apart including: high quality ingredients ― many using organic, sustainable, and non-GMO ingredients; chef and kitchen-driven menus; a people and customer service first mentality; and the desire to serve our community at large.
These restaurants exist and continue to grow due to a cultural shift to an “on-the-go” mentality. Diners are looking for quicker and quicker dining experiences more than ever before. We are moving at such a fast rate ― especially in major cities where so many newer QSR concepts are popping up ― and restaurants are finding ways to keep up with the trends.
It is safe to say that we are at a new wave of fast casual restaurants. Not only are they here to stay, but more full service restaurants are now taking a page from these QSRs. For example, we are seeing counter service restaurants such as Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen, As Quoted, and more. These time-saving techniques are showing up everywhere ― and the industry is watching closely.