Growth in Quick-Service Restaurants Outpaced Full-Service Restaurants in Most U.S. Counties

By McLaughlin, Patrick W. | Amber Waves, November 2018 | Go to article overview

Growth in Quick-Service Restaurants Outpaced Full-Service Restaurants in Most U.S. Counties


McLaughlin, Patrick W., Amber Waves


Over the last decade and a half, the number of quick-service restaurants operating in the United States grew by nearly 20 percent- from roughly 285,000 establishments in 2000 to over 340,000 in 2015. A recent ERS examination of changes in the U.S. food service industry found quick-service restaurants-eating places where food is ordered and paid for at a counter-even grew in number during the Great Recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

In comparison, the number of full-service restaurants-where wait staff take orders for food and beverages at tables and customers pay after eating-remained essentially unchanged during 2000-15. These differing growth rates resulted in quick-service restaurants taking the majority spot: as of 2015, quick-service restaurants accounted for 54 percent of all restaurants nationwide. Fifteen years earlier, quick-service restaurants accounted for just under 50 percent of the Nation's restaurants.

A significant driver of quick-service restaurant growth was the emergence of the fast-casual restaurant-a category of quick-service restaurants embodying the format's typical counter service and price point but with perceived higher quality of menu offerings and ingredients, as well as ambiance much like casual full-service restaurants. Fast-casual restaurants accounted for 2.9 percent of quick-service restaurants in 2000 and expanded to 10.8 percent by 2015. Prominent fast-casual chains, such as Chipotle and Panera, were largely responsible for fast-casual restaurants' growing number of establishments and thus grew their share of quick-service restaurant sales. …

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