Fast Casual On the Rise


14-11pg12ENTREEProvisionsWhile many restaurants offer either full service or casual dining, the increasingly popular concept of “fast-fine” is slowly but surely bridging the gap. It’s close to fine dining in a casual atmosphere and it’s a hit amongst restaurateurs and foodies. Many businesses are now expanding their options to offer both full-service dining and premium fast-casual. Many are even opening up entirely new locations dedicated to quality cuisine in a relaxed environment and at a more desirable price! A number of upscale food courts offering craftsman-style eats are filling up with those who desire a unique high-quality dish without the pressure and price of a full-service experience. If you expect traditional fast food fare, you’ll have to look elsewhere; these indie food-markets are reinventing the notion by dishing out flavors worthy of a five-star restaurant at a quicker pace. A number of these fast-fine food havens, including OC Mart at SoCo in Costa Mesa, the Anaheim Packing House, Union Market in The District in Tustin, Kaleidoscope in Mission Viejo, Fourth Street Market in downtown Santa Ana and Lot 579 at Pacific City in Huntington Beach feature multiple dining options. While Kaleidoscope, Fourth Street Market, and Lot 579 aren’t yet open for business, they emphasize the quickly growing genre of fast-fine dining and the revitalization of food culture in many forgotten neighborhoods. Neglected cities have become founts of
inspiration for chefs, and they offer the perfect background to present their creative fare, especially to the modern hipster community.Union Market in Tustin is located in a 23,000 square-foot complex and is divided into several different restaurant spaces varying in size. It sounds similar to a mall, which is apparently the goal, as the founders hope to build their project “as a brand” that “has potential to reboot malls.” A similar artisanal food-court, the Fourth Street Market, is
making its debut in Santa Ana. The common-roof food market boasts an impressive resume already, with a European-style butcher shop by Michael Publisi as well as three new eateries started by Jason Quinn of The Playground restaurant. One of the obvious upsides of the new fast-fine niche? According to Chef Jenny Ross of the Lemon Drop Juice Bar at the Anaheim Packing House, the money saved on rent can go toward purchasing the best high-grade seasonal ingredients. One of the downsides of these food complexes? Many frequenting customers claim it’s the lack of accessible parking, as many locations were not built to accommodate so many cars. But still, the crowds do not seem to be letting up anytime soon.1
Individual restaurants dedicated to the fast-fine concept are also quickly popping up around Orange County and surrounding areas. One such spot is S&M Sausage and Meat in San Diego by Slater’s 50/50 founder and president Scott Slater. In an article by Lisa Jennings of Nation’s Restaurant News, Slater describes this new project as “an eclectic meatery” with elements of both full-service and fast-casual that will offer experimental twists on traditional foods (beaver tacos, for example). Anywhere you decide to be seated at S&M you order at the register with the “Concierge.” For drinks,
you can either order at the register or directly at the bar – tab is left open to add (whether food or drink) until guests are ready for their checks.

To gain multiple perspectives on the concept, we asked a few renowned restaurateurs to tell us where their brands stand in this billion-dollar dining trend.

Ruby’s Diner – Tad Belshe, Executive Vice President oversees both Fast Casual and Full Service Concepts
How many stores? 39
How many stores in the OC & Long Beach? 15
States covered? California, Hawaii, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, and New Jersey
Founded? Ruby’s Diner was founded on Balboa Pier by Doug Cavanaugh in 1982
Year current concepts began? Fast Casual began in 2014 in Costa Mesa, Atlantic City, NJ, Maui-Whalers Village
Total number of employees: 900-1000
Average number of employees per fast casual unit: 20 (estimate)
Average number of employees per full service unit: 40-50
Flat ware real or plastic? Real
Napkins disposable, premiScreen shot 2014-11-12 at 12.51.57 PMum disposable or linen? Disposable
Glass ware disposable, premium disposable or glass? Glass
Liquor? In some locations
Wine and Beer? In most locations
Pros for each concept: Ruby’s appeals to all age groups at both concepts. They both provide high quality offerings featuring all natural beef, local produce, and iconic name brands Americans have grown up with and trust such as Hershey’s, Nestle, Heinz, Pilgrim’s Pride, Kraft, Heritage Farms, and Coca-Cola. We can also meet the desires of our guests based on their mood, time allotted for dining, and the variety of options we provide at each concept Ruby’s is not just limiting diners to burgers, fries, and shakes.
Tell us about your Service model: Ruby’s Dinette service model begins with a warm welcome as the guest enters, quick and easy service, counter ordering and payment, where our energetic team members provide guest with a state-of-the-art table locator device which when placed on any table in the restaurant, tells the restaurant team where the guest is seated, thus allowing speedy delivery of their order right to their table. That combined with continuous oversight of the dining room for assistance with refills or that special dessert or ice cream order allows guest to enjoy the benefits of a quick-serve concept with the care and attention of full service dining once seated.


Restaurateur Daniel A. Biello is partners in both Chronic Taco, which offers fast casual dining and Social Gastro Pub, which offers full-service.
How many stores? Chronic Tacos 30, and Social Gastro Pub 1
How many stores in the OC & Long Beach? 23 in the OC and 2 in Long Beach
States covered? Chronic is in California, Nevada and Vancouver in British Columbia. Social Gastro Pub is in California.
Founded? 2002 Chronic Tacos, 2014 Social Gastro Pub
Year current concepts began? 2002 Chronic Tacos, 2014 Social Gastro Pub
Total number of employees: 8-10 per Chronic Taco location, 30 at Social Gastro Pub
Average number of employees per fast casual unit: 8-10
Average number of employees per full service unit: 30
Average check amount? $11 at Chronic and $38 at Social
Liquor? Love serving Liquor, you can not run a full service without it.
Wine and Beer? Perfect for fast casual
Tell us about your ambiance. Chronic Tacos has a surfer kid friendly environment, usually with good reggae music on and a very well-trained staff serving some of the best Mexican food around. I like to call [Social] an adult’s playground. You will enjoy jazz, piano, libations and you get to enjoy it with people who have JOBS. It’s a very well-manicured crowd.
Pros for each concept: Chronic Tacos [has] fast service, low payroll, is easy to operate, and has a 50% cash sales average [as well as] low invoice audits, less liability and is simple to schedule and manage. Social Gastro Pub has large average tickets and plenty of quality career trained staff.
Next moves? I’ll be opening another fast-casual concept in Newport Beach this fall. I also have been working on a new full-service concept that will [feature] competing menus in a wine bar/Tequila bar atmosphere. I will also be opening 2 more Social [Gastro Pubs] in the years to come.


Wahoo’s Fis14-11pg12ENTREEServicePlacardsh Taco The Lee Family Offers Fast Casual Service
How many stores? 62
How many stores in the OC & Long Beach? 16 in the OC, 1 in Long Beach
States covered? California, Hawaii, Nevada, Texas, Colorado and Nebraska
Founded? 1987
Total number of employees: 650
Average number of employees per fast casual unit: 20
Average check amount? $12
Flat ware real or plastic? Real
Napkins disposable, premium disposable or linen? Disposable
Glass ware disposable, premium disposable or glass? Glass and Plastic
Plate ware disposable, premium disposable or china? China
Liquor? Yes, in 3 restaurants
Wine and Beer? Yes, in all
Tell us about your ambiance. Casual surf.
Tell us about your service model. You pay first, and we do the rest.
Best things about fast casual? Less rent, labor and easier to manage.
Worst things about fast casual?Less profit, too many competitors, and competition for real estate space.


Greg Daniels, Executive Chef and Partner at Haven Collective is connected to both Haven Gastropub, which offers full service and Provisions Market, which follows a fast-casual model.
How many stores? 1 each
How many stores in the OC & Long Beach? Both are in the OC
States covered? California
Founded? Haven Gastropub in 2009 and Provisions market in 2013
Total number of employees: approximately 80
Average number of employees per fast casual unit: 15
Average number of employees per full service unit: 60
Flat ware real or plastic? Real
Napkins disposable, premium disposable or linen? Disposable
Plate ware disposable, premium disposable or china? China
Glass ware disposable, premium disposable or glass? Glass
Liquor? Not in the fast casual concept (Provisions Market)
Wine and Beer? Yes! For both on and off-site consumption.
Tell us about your ambiance. Haven Gastropub is warm, inviting, has modern rock music, a friendly staff and local focus while Provisions Market is a casual hangout/bright and airy market with classic rock music.
Best and Worst things about fast casual? Best: less employees, more casual feel, and more relaxed expectations from guests. Worst: more turnover, less skilled work force and less opportunity to impress guests with service.
What’s your definition, mantra or mission statement? Both locations “Dedication to Craft.” For Haven Gastropub, it’s “Gourmet Comfort Food” and for Provisions Market it’s “An Uncommonly Good Market.”

1 Food Hall 101 by Nancy Luna and Heather Goldin from August 2


  1. There is a strong future in the fast-casual platform. By adding fast casual dinning to restaurant it creates a growth opportunity to the existing business foundation. Creating a grab-and-go option adds to the customers’ needs, especial if you have a great distribution location. A restaurant needs to be adaptable to succeed in a fast-casual addition by being consistent with the quality of the food.