In the mid-1950s came a new upstart: the fast-food or
quick-service restaurant (QSR), which, by being systems-based and not chef-driven, created a new approach to how
consumers viewed the dining experience. In a disruption
of tradition, both the composition and order of the meal
was controlled by the consumer, not the supplier. “If I
want to eat my fries before my burger, who cares?” the
consumer might say. The same went for the concept of
self-service: “No waiter, no tipping—I’ll gladly clear my
own table!” Much of the food was prepared in an off-site facility and assembled to order or batch-cooked by
semiskilled kitchen workers.
Once the drive-through window came into play, the
need to even get out of your car for a meal disappeared,
raising the question, “Is my front seat a restaurant?” Anyone could use this system at any time during the day.
While QSRs were not originally considered “real” restaurants, dining out became an easy and everyday option.
During the 1990s, the market saw the explosion of the
casual theme restaurant, which took all of the formality
out of fine dining, including the white tablecloth, and
significantly sped up the dining process. Table service
was still integral to the experience, but with less personal
connection to the server, as food was often delivered by
a runner directly from the kitchen. Standardized meal
choices were assembled on-site by slightly more skilled
journeymen, led by a kitchen manager instead of a chef,
who used a mass customization process to match the
individual desires of the customer.
THE RISE OF FAST CASUAL
In the last decade, the fast-casual restaurant came to the
Fast-food was the first major disrupter in the restaurant industry, with companies like McDonald’s rising up in the 1950s to give consumers more control and speedier service. Next came themed restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe, which took the formality out of fine dining,
and, more recently, fast-casual chains like Blaze Pizza combine the features of quick-service restaurants and traditional cafeteria service.