The Interior Design Evolution of Fast Casual Restaurants

The fast-casual restaurant industry has emerged as a popular and thriving segment in the food service market.

Combining the convenience of fast food with the quality and ambiance of casual dining, fast casual restaurants have become go-to destinations for individuals seeking a quick yet enjoyable meal.

Unlike traditional fast food chains, these establishments often offer healthier menu options, made-to-order meals, and an elevated dining experience. With their rising popularity, fast casual restaurants have recognized the importance of creating a unique and inviting atmosphere that sets them apart from their competitors.


Breka Bakery & Cafe on Denman  |  Designed by JDG  |  Photo by Christine Pienaar

Interior Design Evolution Trends in Fast-Casual Dining


As the fast-casual restaurant industry continues to grow and mature, so does its approach to interior design.

Gone are the days of sterile and utilitarian spaces. Today’s fast-casual restaurants are thoughtfully designed to provide an immersive and visually appealing environment.

From trendy furniture arrangements to captivating lighting fixtures and unique decor, every aspect of the interior design is carefully curated to engage customers on a deeper level.

By incorporating elements that reflect your brand’s identity and resonate with the target audience, fast casual restaurants have transformed into more than just places to eat – they have become experiential destinations that enhance the overall dining experience, leaving a lasting impression on customers.

This evolution in interior design has undoubtedly contributed to the success and popularity of fast-casual restaurants in today’s competitive market.


Yugo Restaurant on Main Street  |  Designed by JDG   |  Photo by Andrew Fyfe

Historical Overview of Fast Casual Restaurants

What are Fast-Casual Restaurants?

Fast casual restaurants occupy a unique space in the dining industry, offering a balance between the speed of fast food and the elevated experience of casual dining.

Perfect examples are Chipotle, Panera Bread, Field & Social, Yugo Restaurant, Dandy’s Artisan Ice Cream and Earnest Ice Cream.

These establishments provide customers with quality, made-to-order meals that are prepared quickly and served in a more inviting environment than traditional fast food chains.

Fast casual restaurants typically offer a range of menu options, including healthier choices and customization opportunities, catering to the evolving preferences of modern diners seeking convenience without compromising on taste or atmosphere.

Early days: Simple and functional interiors

In their early days, fast casual restaurants were primarily focused on efficiency and functionality.

The interior design was characterized by straightforward layouts, basic furniture, and minimal decor. The emphasis was on streamlining the ordering and service process to ensure quick and convenient dining experiences for customers. While comfort was not neglected, aesthetic elements took a backseat to functionality, as these establishments aimed to cater to the fast-paced lifestyles of their target audience.

Dandy’s Artisan Ice Cream in Regina, SK  |  Designed by JDG   |  Photo by Andrew Fyfe

Surge in popularity: Increased focus on aesthetics and ambiance

As fast-casual restaurants gained popularity, the industry realized the significance of creating memorable dining experiences that extended beyond the food itself.

North America alone is responsible for 44% of fast-casual restaurant growth. With heightened competition, fast-casual establishments began to prioritize aesthetics and ambiance to differentiate themselves.

Interiors started to undergo a transformation, with careful attention given to lighting, colour schemes, furniture selection, and the incorporation of appealing textures and materials. The goal was to cultivate a warm and inviting atmosphere that enticed customers to relax and enjoy their meals.

These unique restaurants recognized the value of creating a visually appealing space that complemented the quality of their food, elevating the overall dining experience and establishing a distinct brand identity.

The evolution of fast-casual restaurant interiors reflects the industry’s understanding that dining is not solely about nourishment but also about the experience.

Key Elements of Modern Fast Casual Restaurant Design

1. Layout & Spatial Design

Modern fast-casual restaurants prioritize creating inviting and adaptable spaces for all types of customers.

Open floor plans with unobstructed views and flow are common. This allows your patrons to feel connected to the bustling environment. Flexible seating arrangements accommodate various group sizes and promote social interaction. Incorporating larger, communal tables encourages a sense of community and fosters conversation among diners and regulars.

However, you don’t want to leave out the introverts! Alongside these communal areas, cozy nooks or secluded corners provide intimate spaces for individuals seeking privacy or a quieter dining experience.

2. Materials & Finishes

Sustainability and eco-consciousness are not a trend. They have become crucial considerations in modern fast casual restaurant design and businesses worldwide.

93% of the world’s largest businesses report on sustainability and track their metrics.

If you own a restaurant, emphasize the use of sustainable materials, such as reclaimed wood, recycled plastics, and low-impact finishes. This conscious choice not only aligns with customers’ environmentally friendly values but also adds a unique and authentic touch to the interior.

A mix of natural and industrial elements, such as exposed brick, concrete, and raw metal accents, creates a harmonious blend of warmth and urban flair, evoking a contemporary yet welcoming ambiance.

3. Colour Schemes & Branding

Colour plays a vital role in setting the mood and evoking emotions.

Vibrant and energetic colours, like oranges, reds and yellows, are commonly used in colour psychology to create a lively atmosphere that exudes positivity, excitement and hunger.

These colours stimulate the senses and uplift the dining experience. Moreover, fast casual restaurants strategically incorporate their brand’s colours into the interior design, creating a cohesive and memorable visual identity.

From the upholstery to the wall art, the brand’s colour palette and signage are thoughtfully integrated to enhance brand recognition and reinforce the restaurant’s unique personality.

Earnest Ice Cream in North Vancouver  |  Designed by JDG  |  Photo by Andrew Fyfe

Future Trends in Fast Casual Restaurant Design


No one knows what’s in store for the future, but our team has a few predictions based on what we’ve seen today.

Tremendous Emphasis on Sustainability & Eco-consciousness

Environmental concerns are at the forefront of global consciousness. The present – and future – of fast-casual restaurant design will place a significant emphasis on sustainability and eco-consciousness.

Restaurants will increasingly prioritize eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient fixtures, and waste-reduction strategies. From recycled furniture and bamboo fibre to upcycled decor elements, these establishments will seek innovative ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Incorporating sustainable practices will not only align with customers’ values but also contribute to a positive brand image and attract the growing segment of environmentally conscious diners

Integration of Immersive Technologies & Augmented Reality (AR)

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, fast casual restaurants could embrace immersive technologies and augmented reality (AR) to enhance the dining experience.

Imagine this: interactive menu boards, tabletop projectors and screens, and robotic servers maneuvering through aisles. AR may even allow patrons to visualize their customized meals before ordering.

These technological advancements will not only provide entertainment value but also streamline the ordering process, improve customer satisfaction, and differentiate fast-casual restaurants in a competitive landscape.

Beyond the Food: Customization & Personalization of Dining Spaces

It’s no surprise that customization will be an ongoing trend for fast-casual businesses. After all, it’s what made them successful in the first place!

Innovative design elements, such as modular furniture and movable partitions, could allow for flexible seating arrangements that can be tailored to different group sizes and occasions.

Customers may even have the option to personalize their dining experience by choosing their preferred lighting settings or even adjusting the temperature in their immediate seating area.

By offering a more personalized and tailored environment beyond the food, fast-casual restaurants will create memorable experiences that foster customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Field & Social on Dunsmuir   |   Designed by JDG   |   Photo by Christine Pienaar

Want Truly Custom Design For Your Fast-Casual Restaurant? Talk to Our Team at JDG


If you’re seeking world-class interior design services to bring these future trends to life, look no further than our restaurant design team at JDG.

As a well-established interior design firm in Vancouver, we have a proven track record of delivering creative and unique spatial design solutions.

Our innovative design team excels in designing your commercial interior space including hospitality, restaurants, retail, medical, and corporate environments.

With a commitment to sustainability and a deep understanding of the fast-casual restaurant industry, JDG is equipped to transform your vision into inviting, functional, and environmentally conscious spaces that attract your target market and put smiles on your customer’s faces.

Contact us today and see our impressive portfolio of successful projects.