Other market segments look to replicate the success of fast-casual concepts.

Increasingly, other restaurant segments are adopting winning strategies from the fast-casual segment, according to The NDP Group, a market research company.

Fast-casual restaurants are considered to be upscale quick service restaurant (QSR) concepts that offer more service, higher quality food, and have a larger average check size than other fast food restaurants. Although still relatively underdeveloped, major fast-casual chain units increased by a double-digit rate over the last three years, according to NPD's RecountĀ®, a bi-annual census of restaurant unit counts. A recently released NPD report, entitled Fast Casual: A Growing Market, finds that even with this unit growth, consumer demand outpaced the rate of unit expansion, reflecting higher levels of consumer satisfaction with the fast casual experience. In addition, several leading fast-casual chains have built strong customer loyalty.

"Many fast casual concepts were positioned as a fresh, made-to-order alternative to traditional fast food options, and consumers responded positively," says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD

Riggs says that QSRs have taken heed of the fast-casual segment's success and have begun offering more premium products, healthier options, and are upgrading interiors with a more upscale and modern look.