Fast-casual restaurant chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Sweetgreen have been stealing customers from full-service restaurant chains like Outback Steakhouse and IHOP. To fight back, some casual dining chains have been launching spinoff restaurants that copy that business model.
Fast-casual restaurants are smaller in size, with less seating and fewer employees serving customers, which means that they are cheaper to operate than a full-service restaurant. Menus are usually designed for convenience and fast service, and customers order at a counter, sometimes moving along an assembly line.
Some casual dining chains have tried and failed to make a fast-casual chain work for their company. Cracker Barrel announced in October that it planned to scrap Holler & Dash, the fast-casual spinoff it launched in 2016, after it acquired Maple Street Biscuit, a fast-casual chain with a focus on breakfast and brunch.
Here are four casual dining chains trying to make them work:
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A franchisee of the Dine Brands chain opened an express version of the bar and grill in December in Mobile, Alabama. The location, which is smaller than the Applebee’s, seats 56 customers. Its menu is simplified but still keeps Applebee’s classics, like the boneless wings and its signature Riblets.
Dine Brands’ CEO Stephen Joyce has told investors that the company, which also owns IHOP, is looking to acquire a fast-casual or fast-food chain as well.
Dine Brands, which has a market value of $1.5 billion, has seen its stock rise more than 10% over the past 12 months.