CHICAGO – Fast-food is no longer defined by consumers as only quick-service, drive-thru restaurants and convenience stores concepts. A new dual concept has emerged, consisting of traditional fast-food and “food-fast” -- that is, food served quickly with a greater emphasis on flavor, quality and ambiance, according to foodservice industry consultant Technomic Inc.

Forty-one percent of consumers relayed their idea of places offering fast-food has expanded recently to include fast-casual restaurants, such as Panera and full-service restaurants offering carryout and curbside service.

“As Americans continue to trade down from full-service concepts, more restaurants are competing for the ‘fast-food/food-fast’ customer,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice-president. “Both quick-service and fast-casual restaurants are borrowing elements from the other to drive traffic. This represents a host of challenges to operators rethinking their brands. Understanding consumers’ changing perceptions of fast-food, as well as competitors’ responses, will be central to success.”

The findings are part of Technomic’s Status and Future of Fast Foods: Consumer Trend Report, which looks at how consumers are seeking faster, more convenient service from all types of foodservice establishments, including convenience stores, food trucks and grocers offering retail meal solutions.