Step aside, fine dining. Casual dining is making waves again. Once considered to be a substandard, last-resort option for eating out, casual dining is once again being celebrated for its consistency and affordability. Chains like Olive Garden have seen an increase of 11 percent growth across the U.S. in recent quarters. Applebee’s has also been thriving with major sales growth over the past two years, and even Texas Roadhouse is the fastest-growing restaurant brand in the world right now.  

Casual dining chains are winning with their deals.

Although aesthetic, Instagrammable dining spots are still highly favored as they have been for years, upscale restaurants are not always the obvious choice anymore. In an economy where bargaining is king, the deals and steals of a Denny’s are preferable to a $60 dollar sushi roll. This is because these chains can afford to offer these discounts, while independent restaurants typically can not. 

Plus, you can’t beat the reliability of your favorite fast casual dining restaurant — Olive Garden breadsticks are always going to taste the same as they did ten years ago, and it's the same with the white queso dip and chips from Applebee’s. There’s a sort of renewed nostalgia when you enter these places, too — when you walk into an IHOP, suddenly you’re 10-years-old again, begging your mom for s’mores pancakes.

So, although there’s certainly still a time and place for fine dining, recent trends show that the pocket-friendly option is still just as trendy.