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The fast-casual sector is dead, or maybe it isn’t

A Deeper Dive: This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast features a discussion on the blurring lines between quick service and fast casual.

Does the fast-casual sector exist?

In this week’s episode of a Deeper Dive I’m joined by my colleague Lisa Jennings to talk about the blurring of the lines in the restaurant industry—particularly between fast-casual and quick-service restaurants.

The fast-casual sector represented a group of higher-end limited-service concepts and until the pandemic largely dominated industry growth over the past two decades.

But since the pandemic, a lot more of these chains have added drive-thrus, such as Shake Shack, Sweetgreen and Chipotle. And a lot more quick-service chains like Chick-fil-A have raised their prices to match what is often seen at traditional fast-casuals. Add it all up and the two sectors look so much alike it makes sense to wonder whether we should do away with that differentiation altogether.

Meanwhile, Lisa and I also talk about recent earnings results from McDonald’s and Chipotle. McDonald’s is gaining low-income diners. Chipotle is losing them. We wonder whether the two industry giants are trading them with one another.

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