Are Quick Service Restaurants the New Fine Dining?

By Robert Hood Corporate Food & Beverage Manager, Atlific Hotels | August 13, 2017

What does a restaurant look like in 2017? To define what a restaurant is is a difficult process and not an easy thing to do considering that foodservice has evolved so much and comes in so many shapes and sizes. In 2017 restaurants are not even defined for having chairs or tables for diners or even want diners to stay after the point of food purchase and the sale is completed. This is the world of the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) and since it arrived it has changed restaurant culture, our food service experiences on an almost daily basis, and begs the question ‘is QSR the new fine dining?’

There was a time when going to a restaurant meant ‘fancy’, white table cloths, servers in crisp white shirts with black bow ties, leather bound menus and expensive silver plated cutlery. This is what the restaurant experience meant to the majority of patrons and guests who could afford that experience, luxury, formality, table service, and having food and wine brought to your table, the experience of being waited on and pampered in a relaxed and unrushed environment where time was not important and the occasion was all that mattered.

Today a restaurant and the environment in which we live and eat is not exactly that way for all of us in our busy lives. Firstly restaurants now are everywhere and accessible to almost all of us, but as our choices and variety of dining options has increased, so the words ‘fine dining’ and what it means have become increasing vague. With more and more people eating out rather than cooking at home, restaurant culture has exploded as guests search for the next great personal dining experience, taste, style, atmosphere, where communal dining often with complete strangers becomes the norm and the ‘feel good’ experience often out weighs the need for flash. This being that the ‘fine’ in fine dining has changed as the guests themselves and their needs have changed.

So what is ‘QSR’? As its name suggests, is a quick service of food directly to the customer. This type of restaurant takes many forms, it can be seen as fast food service, food court, kiosk or counter service or an operation with multiple outlets, offering multiple varied products to many guests at the same time. The premise for the operation is that the customer will engage with the service associate either by placing an order or selecting a dining operation, paying for the service and then either receiving the food directly or making the selection and serving themselves. The process is quick, easy and meant to relay the minimum amount of stress and effort on the guest.

Sometimes the process will involve the food and beverages being brought to the customer in quick order at their seat shortly after selection. The emphasis is on quick service delivery of a quality food item. In many people’s minds quick service is all about fast food, but this perception is rapidly changing. A Starbucks store for example is a very real example of a quality food and beverage experience, which has evolved from a purely counter service coffee operation to serving breakfast, lunch and light entrée food items, through all day snacks in a speedy and quick customer engaged environment. Starbucks has also moved toward serving wine in some of their stores during the evening hours to cultivate an alternative option to the tradition bar type establishment.

Food courts provide feeding for large numbers of people at the same time allowing the customer to be served from a selection of food concepts offering fresh main to order food options that allow diners the variety of selection that a normal restaurant menu would offer, and enabling guests to enjoy a unique food option every time at quick pace of service. This type of QSR restaurant environment has shown that customers can eat a quality meal within a certain time constraint to which a traditional restaurant experience would not allow.

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