What is a Quick-Service Restaurant?


You may have heard the term “quick-service restaurant” and wondered what exactly that meant. It sounds fairly self-explanatory, but what makes the difference between a quick-service restaurant and, say, a fast casual eatery?

Also known as “quick-serves,” these restaurants are known for fast, efficient, take-out-ready foods at affordable prices. Many consider the term “quick-serve” as synonymous with “fast food.”

Facts about Quick-service Restaurants

At their core, quick-service restaurants usually have one priority: getting food to the customer fast and with limited or no table-service. The term usually is usually used to describe chain restaurants, many with franchising opportunities.

Quick-service restaurants are often chains: Quick-service restaurateurs often gain momentum from operating multiple locations under the same upper management. Some of the most successful quick-service restaurants, such as Starbucks and McDonald’s, have achieved such enormous market share due to their many locations. Starbucks currently runs more than 18,000 locations worldwide, while McDonald’s boasts over 33,000.

Quick-service restaurants offer consistent food: Due to highly regulated production systems, food suppliers and menu development, quick-service restaurants are known for their consistency. Customers expect a sandwich or smoothie ordered at one location to taste exactly like the same item ordered elsewhere, and quick-serves deliver.

Quick-service restaurants can benefit from franchising: One of the key factors to success in quick-service restaurant operation is the opportunity for outside entrepreneurs to franchise. Franchising allows businesses to grow by expanding the brand and building investments.

Misconceptions about Quick-service Restaurants

Just as there are a few consistent facts about quick-serves, there are also several misconceptions about what the term means and how to understand this niche.

Quick-service restaurants only serve “fast food.” Fast food is commonly associated with greasy burgers and fries. Fast food is stigmatized as overly processed and generally unhealthy. And although many quick-serves do reflect traditional fast food concepts, it’s not true across the board. Quick-serves like Subway, Jamba Juice and TCBY are examples, offering menu items like smoothies, toasted sub sandwiches and even fruit-laden frozen yogurt. Even fast-food giant McDonald’s serves items like the Fruit & Walnuts and Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal—a definite departure from typical fries and burgers.

Quick-service restaurants are less profitable than full-service restaurants. Research from QSR Magazine indicates that some of the biggest players in the quick-service industry—those that bring in the most domestic sales of all quick-serves—are actually some of the most profitable restaurants in the industry. McDonald’s is one example, with 2010 sales above $32 million. Other names topping the charts include Subway, Wendy’s and Burger King. With successful ads, an efficient production system and consistent food, quick-service restaurants are poised for success.

Although there can be variations in the definition of a quick-service restaurant, they are a powerful force in the industry and will only continue to grow.


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