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What is Casual Dining and Why it’s on the Rise

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October 02, 2023

In a time when eating out has become more than just a meal, the resurgence of casual dining has captured the hearts and palates of diners everywhere. The casual dining industry holds 38 percent of the U.S. restaurant market share, with $4.1 billion in dining sales and it’s expected to grow. Discover the essence of this trendy restaurant model and how you can use it to your advantage.

What is the Meaning of “Casual Dining?”

Casual dining establishments are full-service restaurants that have laid-back, relaxed atmospheres with reasonably priced menus. Casual dining spots offer more elevated food options so they differ from fast food service.

3 Reasons Why Consumers Love Casual Dining

Casual dining provides customers with fast service, exceptional food, and informal dress codes. Guests can enjoy a relaxed meal and benefit from full service without the price tag of fine dining. 

“3

1. Made to Order, Fast: Casual dining takes a nod from fine dining and incorporates fresh ingredients and meals made to order. However, menus are designed to be easy to execute so customers get fed quickly. Some typical items on casual dining menus are gourmet burgers, chicken Caesar salads, chicken wings, and Mexican-inspired dishes.

2. Great for Families: The accessible menus, relaxed atmosphere, and timely service make casual dining ideal for a family out with the kids. Parents don’t have to wait long for hungry children to get fed. Plus, because the menus are affordable and becoming more healthy, eating out doesn’t cut into the family budget.

3. Healthy Meal Alternatives to Fast Food: People have recently embraced healthy lifestyles, including plant-based options. In fact, according to Statista, 50 percent of consumers are currently trying to eat more wholesomely. However, the same survey suggests that 46 percent find price is a hurdle to achieving their healthy lifestyle goal. Casual dining affords customers healthier options than fast food, with the speed of fast food service.

The Future of Casual Dining

As more and more patrons seek an in-house dining experience with affordable options, casual dining is expected to grow. With food prices rising, restaurants have had to increase menu prices. According to a study conducted by Bank of America, wholesale food costs rose by double digits in 2022. Both consumers and restaurant operators felt the effects of inflation. The same research suggests 46 percent of U.S. adults aren’t eating out as often as they would like.

Casual dining offers more affordable eating-out options, with an average ticket price coming in around $36.98. Customers can still have a great dining experience without feeling a pull on their purse strings.

Using Casual Dining Models to Enhance Your Restaurant

Whether you are looking to open a casual dining establishment or want to adopt a few of their techniques for your own restaurant, here are a few models to help you capitalize on casual food concepts.

Offer Lunch Specials: Whether you are operating a fine-dining bistro or a high-end spot, you can offer well-priced lunch specials that allow you to churn out tickets quickly. 63 percent of people grab their lunches from neighborhood restaurants, so offering quick and easy mid-day meals is a great way to boost traffic. 

Rethink Menus to Maximize Efficiency: One of the main draws to fast-casual establishments is speed. Food is made fresh but comes from the kitchen quickly. Performing a quick menu audit allows you to streamline your dishes and cross-use ingredients.

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