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What is a Quick-Service Restaurant?

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[Source], while McDonald's boasts over 33,000.[Source]  

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[Source]—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.[Source] 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.