adj. Of or relating to a restaurant that offers a slightly higher quality of food, service, and atmosphere than a fast-food restaurant.

Example Citation:
"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 2, 2001

Earliest Citation:
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

This type of restaurant is also described in the food biz as adult fast food (1983) or as upscale fast (1981). The term fast-casual is much newer, dating only to 1995. In case you're wondering, health-Mex (see the earliest citation) refers to Mexican cuisine that uses nutritious foods prepared in a healthy way, It's a widely used term that dates to 1993:

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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