Is Applebees Fast Food: Yes and No

The answer to the question of whether Applebee’s is considered fast food is both yes and no. Although Applebee’s is a chain of casual dining restaurants, it has recently begun adopting aspects of the fast food industry into its business strategy. For instance, the chain recently introduced drive-through windows to some of its sites, a feature often found in fast food establishments.

The fact that Applebee’s still provides table service and a sit-down eating experience, which is uncommon for fast food restaurants, should be noted. The chain’s menu also offers other items that are uncommon for fast food restaurants, like steaks, seafood, and pasta meals. Therefore, even though Applebee’s may contain certain fast food components, it would be inaccurate to label the establishment as a fast food restaurant.

Is Applebee’s Considered Fast Food?

An Applebee's restaurant in New York

Although Applebee’s provides quick service, it is not a network of fast food restaurants. Fast-food establishments are frequently distinguished by their quick service, affordable rates, and constrained menu selections. Applebee’s, in comparison, has a large menu that includes alcoholic drinks, meals, desserts, and appetizers. In contrast to most fast-food chains, this restaurant also offers catering services. The food at Applebee’s is prepared using high-quality ingredients and takes time. The eatery serves a variety of foods, including steaks, seafood, and pasta, that are not frequently available at fast-food restaurants.

In addition to table service, Applebee’s offers order taking and food delivery by a waiter or waitress. Despite not being a fast-food company, Applebee’s has been evolving to meet changing customer tastes. For example, Applebee’s added drive-thru windows to some of its locations in recent years to give customers a more practical choice for takeaway orders.

Understanding Fast Food

Applebee's restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

You probably image hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes from restaurants like McDonald’s or Burger King when you think of fast food. However, there are many types of fast food than simply those well-known businesses. Any food that is cooked and served rapidly, frequently through a drive-through window or takeout counter, is referred to as fast food. Although cheap and handy, fast food can also be very calorie, fat, and sodium dense.

In addition to being heavily processed, many fast food items also contain additives and preservatives that are absent from full, unprocessed foods. The rapidity of fast food is one of its defining features. Fast food restaurants are made so that you can enter, order, and go in a short amount of time.

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For this reason, many fast food restaurants employ pre-made ingredients that can be swiftly combined into meals and have simplified menus. The consistency of fast food is another feature. Every location of national chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell serves the same menu items and has the same ingredients, so patrons always know what to expect.

Additionally, the efficiency of food preparation and service is increased thanks to this consistency. Despite being frequently criticized for its negative effects on health, fast food can be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Nowadays, a lot of fast food restaurants include healthy options such fruit cups, salads, and grilled chicken. When consuming fast food, it’s critical to understand nutrition information and make educated decisions.

Applebee’s Food Preparation and Service

Applebee’s is superior to fast food restaurants in terms of both meal preparation and customer service. They might not be considered a fine dining restaurant, but they do provide a more upscale dining experience than a regular fast food business. You may anticipate that your cuisine will be freshly prepared to order at Applebee’s.

This means that while it might take a little longer for your food to arrive than it would at a fast food establishment, it will still be hot and tasty. The kitchen crew takes pride in their work and strives to serve clients dishes of the highest caliber. Applebee’s provides table service, an improvement over the counter service you would get at a fast food restaurant. Your order will be taken, food will be delivered to the table, and drinks will be refilled as necessary by your server.

Additionally, they can answer any queries you might have regarding the menu and offer suggestions depending on your preferences. One thing to keep in mind is that Applebee’s does provide a To Go option, which has an ordering process more akin to that of a fast food restaurant. The cuisine is still prepared fresh and not pre-made, unlike at a fast food restaurant, even with To Go orders.

Comparing Applebees with Fast Food Chains

It’s critical to contrast Applebees with other fast food franchises when determining whether the restaurant qualifies as fast food or not.

Although Applebee’s is sometimes referred to as a casual dining establishment, fast food businesses and Applebee’s share some characteristics.

Menu Options

The range of menu options is one of Applebee’s most notable distinctions from fast food restaurants. Burgers, chicken, salads, etc.) often only have a few selections on the menu in fast food restaurants. In contrast, Applebees offers a significantly greater selection of dishes, including appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Even if numerous fast food restaurants have increased the diversity of their menus recently, Applebees still offers a wider selection.

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Service Style

The manner of service is another distinction between Applebee’s and fast food restaurants. Self-service fast food restaurants often have a counter where customers place their orders and wait for their meal to be cooked. In contrast, Applebees has a sit-down service approach where guests are seated by a host and are attended to by a waiter or waitress. The overall eating experience and environment may be impacted by this variation in service methods.

Speed of Service

Applebees is not far behind fast food establishments in terms of speed of service. In an effort to speed up service, Applebee’s has added drive-thru windows in some locations. In contrast to quick food businesses, the sit-down service concept might nonetheless result in lengthier food wait times.


When contrasting Applebees with fast food establishments, price is another aspect to take into account. Even while Applebee’s is typically more expensive than fast food restaurants, it is still regarded as being reasonably priced for casual dining. Because Applebee’s has a greater menu selection and a sit-down service concept, its pricing are often higher than those at fast food restaurants.

While fast food companies have a restricted menu and a self-service strategy, Applebees has a greater selection of menu items and a sit-down service model. Ultimately, your definition of “fast food” will determine whether Applebee’s is included.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Applebee’s considered fast food?

Although Applebee’s has many characteristics of fast food restaurants, such as offering quick service and affordable prices, it is not considered a fast food chain. Applebee’s is classified as a casual dining restaurant, which means it offers table service, a larger menu, and a more upscale atmosphere than fast food restaurants.

What is the difference between fast food and casual dining?

Fast food restaurants are known for their quick service, limited menus, and low prices. They typically have a self-service model where customers order at a counter and receive their food in disposable packaging. In contrast, casual dining restaurants offer a larger menu, table service, and a more upscale atmosphere. They often have a sit-down model where customers are served by waitstaff and eat off of real dishes.

Does Applebee’s offer vegetarian or vegan options?

Yes, Applebee’s offers vegetarian and vegan options on their menu, including the Impossible Burger and a Southwest Black Bean Burger. They also offer vegetarian and vegan sides and salads. It’s always a good idea to ask your server for recommendations or to modify menu items to fit your dietary needs.

Does Applebee’s offer delivery?

Yes, Applebee’s offers delivery through various third-party delivery services. Check with your local Applebee’s to see if they offer delivery and which services they use.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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