Some of the country’s largest quick-service brands are responding to growing competition from fast-casual upstarts by evolving elements of their service to defend their market share.

Whether it’s more customization at McDonald’s, upgraded prototypes at Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza, or a newly imagined “innovation restaurant” at KFC, quick-service brands are showing a greater openness to adopting the fast-casual segment’s service attributes, rather than copy menu items or migrate their price points.

“Those four brands, or any quick-service brand really, would all love to have the demographics of the fast-casual customer,” said John Gordon, principal of San Diego-based Pacific Management Consulting Group. “They tend to be higher-income, dine out more, and be more social and food-oriented.”

While integrating fast-casual service methods into quick-service chains’ existing setups could successfully make those brands more relevant to fast-casual consumers, a brand must figure out how feasible it is for its likely heavily franchised system, he noted.

“Is this a fix for the entire system, or an application only for certain units or areas?” Gordon asked. “What’s the end game?”

In this era when fast-casual brands can pop up, out-innovate older restaurants and take a significant share of quick-service customers, quick-service chains must be willing to test new things and to adjust plans quickly if they fail, said Dennis Lombardi of Columbus, Ohio-based WD Partners.

“I’ve never ever to my knowledge knocked a brand for experimenting,” he said.