As Americans begin getting back on the road, traveling around the country, and visiting family and friends, quick service and fast casual restaurants offer affordable meal options on the go. With widespread availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, and an itch to get out and explore the country, CivicScience investigated the impact on casual dining, specifically at Mexican restaurants. 

One in four Americans eats at a fast casual restaurant at least a few times a month while nearly half (47%) eat fast food / quick service meals at the same rate.

The data have shown subtle shifts in the frequency of dining at fast casual and quick service restaurants in 2021, with an uptick in those visiting fast casual restaurants and a slight increase in patrons of fast food/quick service establishments.

Cuisine Preferences and Casual Dining Overlap

We took a deeper look at where quick service restaurants and one of Americans’ favorite types of food collide. In a CivicScience survey of six major cuisines in America, one-third of adults consider Mexican food their favorite. 

And 33% of Americans enjoy Mexican food from fast casual or quick service restaurants at least once a month.

Those eating fast casual Mexican food most frequently (once a week or more) fall into the 25-to-34 age range.

Americans’ Top Quick Service Mexican Restaurants

El Pollo Loco, a regional chain primarily found in the Southwest, leads in positive experience (45%) among those who have tried their food. Moe’s Southwest Grill (43%), Qdoba (41%), Chipotle (40%), and Taco John’s (39%) follow closely behind in positive experience. 

At quick service / fast casual Mexican restaurants, tacos are the preferred offering on the menu (46%), followed by burritos (38%) and quesadillas (25%).

As comfortability dining out at restaurants continues to increase, CivicScience will track changes in the eating habits of Americans.