adj. Of or relating to a restaurant that offers a slightly higher quality of food, service, and atmosphere than a fast-food restaurant.
Besides bumping up a notch from fast food, the fast-casual restaurants, including chains such as Chipotle, Panera Bread Co., Qdoba and Noodles & Co., offer up more atmosphere.
—Kelly Pate, “Einstein buyout fills hole in owner's plans,” The Denver Post, July 02, 2001
1995 (earliest)
ZuZu's concept is 'fast-casual,' a restaurant-industry term that means more service than fast food but less than a sit-down restaurant. Customers order menu items from the counter, and their food is delivered to their table when it's ready.
—Penny Parker, “ZuZu opening 35 health-Mex outlets in Colorado,” The Denver Post, February 16, 1995
Not to put too fine a point on it, ZuZu does it right. That is to say, ZuZu serves food we love, despite the fact that it is clearly health-Mex, rather than Tex-Mex.
—Lanette Causey, “ZuZu,” The Dallas Morning News, August 12, 1993
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