Fast-Casual Restaurants, I learnt something new this week!


The great thing about being a self-certified nerd, is the excitement you go through when you learn something new. On Monday this week, whilst scrolling through my twitter timeline, I came across the following term: “Fast-Casual” restaurants. According to Wikipedia (side note: “yes, I know not the most reliable source for info on the web, but it’s a good starting place”), a fast-casual restaurant is one that doesn’t offer a full table service (i.e. served by a waiter, laid out cutlery etc.) but, it offers high quality food made from fresh ingredients (locally sourced chickens, vegetables from the local farmers market). Essentially, these restaurants use far less frozen or processed ingredients than what a traditional fast food restaurant would.

That was the long winded definition. In simpler terms, a fast-casual, is positioned between a fast-food and a casual dining.

The term “fast-casual” is credited to a guy named Paul Barron who is the founder of the website: which lists the following criterion for a restaurant to be defined as “fast-casual”. These criterion are as follows:

  1. Limited service or has a self-service format
  2. The meal price is $8-$15 (US) – in SA though, the prices are lower, around R40 – R70 (I’m basing this pricing on Nando’s)
  3. Made to order food with more complex flavours than a fast food restaurant
  4. Décor is upscale, unique and highly developed
  5. Most don’t have a drive through
  6. Customization and Menu innovation

Since this is an American term, the sites I came across list American chains when they give examples of “fast-casual” restaurants! Oh (my mistake), they do include, our now international, proudly home-grown brand Nando’s!

Which other South African brands fall into this category? Looking at the above definition, I thought of three other brands, which coincidentally are some of my favourite ‘go-to’ food brands:

NANDO’S (Flame grilled Chicken)

  • Use quality ingredients
  • Locally farmed chicken
  • Pili-Pili (chillies) sourced from small-holder farmers
  • Upscale décor
  • Healthy and affordable
ANDICCIO24 (Pizza)

  • Source fresh ingredients
  • Consumer creates their own pizza
  • They believe that individual tastes are unique
  • Innovative
  • 24 hours and home delivery
KAUAI (SA’s #1 quick service health brand)

  • Food is made from fresh ingredients
  • Provides healthy balanced choices
  • Sandwiches, Wraps,
  • Freshly squeezed juices & health smoothies
RocoMamas (Smash-style burgers)

  • Customised, casual affordable menu
  • Handmade “smash-style” burger, ribs & wings
  • All ingredients fresh and prepped onsite
  • Range of freshly made add-ons
  • Open grill


So what is the point of this blog, apart from letting you know that I learnt something new and then did a bit more research around it? Well for you aspiring restaurateurs, according to an article in the economist, in the United States, the fast-casual market is the fastest growing segment in the restaurant industry. It grew by 10.1% in 2014 compared to the 6.1% growth rate of fast-food chains. Fast-casual restaurants (due to their innovative menu’s; customization and smart pricing methods) are able to get consumers to pay 40% more than fast-food restaurants. Read more: here

In South Africa, looking at the latest data available on, on the food and beverages industry, publication P6420, as at November 2014, here:

  • Restaurants and Coffee shops grew by 9.0% year on year
  • Take-away and fast foods grew by 7.7% year on year
  • Catering services grew by 13.7% year on year
  • Year to date growth (as at November 2014) for all three segments combined, was 6.7%.

Therefore, looking at the above data (I know statisticians reading this will find my conclusion ‘statistically unsound’), together with the fact that fast-casual restaurants are the happy medium between fast food and casual dining. Fast-casual restaurants in South Africa grew by 8.36%! Ok, on a serious note, looking at these growth trends, we can safely assume that fast-casual restaurants are a growing segment. Fuelled by the following trends: people wanting affordable, fresh, tasty, healthy food at a convenient time and location.

So why not do some research and look into getting a franchise from an innovative brand in the fast-casual segment?  (PS: Spur recently bought a 51% stake in RocoMamas, read more: here)


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