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Foodservice Operators Shying Away From 'Fast Food' Label

NEW YORK — Foodservice chains that seek to compete with fast-food titans such as McDonald's and Burger King are giving themselves other labels, such as fine casual, fast crafted, fan food and more, despite using the same model of customers lining up to order and paying a cashier for their food upfront, according to an Associated Press report.

The differing terminology comes as companies try to show that their offerings are fresher and higher quality in order to avoid the stigma that fast food is cheap and unhealthy.

Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread are widely referred to as fast casual, a term meant to convey that they serve dishes in line with those that consumers might find at a casual, sit-down restaurant, according to the report. Shake Shack went a step further in 2015 by calling itself fine casual.

"Fine casual couples the ease, value and convenience of fast-casual concepts with the high standards of excellence in thoughtful ingredient sourcing, preparation, hospitality and quality grounded in fine dining," read a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Other companies giving themselves alternate labels include Arby's, which calls itself fast crafted; Del Taco, which calls itself QSR-plus; and Dairy Queen, which uses the tagline "Fan Food Not Fast Food."

While the idea of ordering and quickly receiving food was once unique, the term fast food is now the "death star" of the foodservice industry, according to BrandSimple Consulting Founder Allen Adamson.

"Everything can be fast today. What you want to communicate is something more desirable," Adamson said.

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