The fast food industry is projected only to grow about 2% annually over the next five years according to IBIS World. As a result, many top fast food chains have tried to meet the challenge of presenting menu items for price-sensitive customers who want healthy options. However, is that what they really want?
Here’s a closer look at the preferences among total market consumers eating at quick service restaurants.
ThinkNow Research conducted a nationwide survey researching 600N Hispanics, 250N African-Americans, 250N Asian, and 250N non-Hispanic whites on the topic of fast food. We found that “great tasting food” is the most important factor in choosing which quick service restaurant to go to:
But, great tasting food and healthy options aren’t mutually exclusive. We all want great tasting food that is healthy, right? However, taking a look at the statement “Is healthier than other fast food restaurants” as a reason for choosing a fast food restaurant, this factor drops below the top 5 for all groups:
Burger King may have been on to something after testing and abandoning such health conscious innovations as apple cranberry salad and low-calorie “satisfries,” then hitting its stride with such menu items as chicken fries, a Sriracha cheeseburger, and the Halloween Whopper. As a result of those offerings and new “two for $5” promotions, Burger King’s comparable sales increased 5.4% for the year. Consumers, in general, may want to eat well, but they also want to “eat good,” and what’s better than Sriracha?
Movement towards variations of dollar menus and value combos among all the fast food brands are a good move according to our survey:
“Has low prices” is in the top 3 most important factors when choosing fast food restaurants for all groups. Price is particularly important to African-American and Hispanic consumers who are significantly more likely to choose price as an important factor over non-Hispanic whites.
So the takeaway for brands and those tasked with advertising those brands is this: having healthy food options will always be a good idea for casual dining, fast casual, and quick service restaurants. However, our data shows that when it comes to fast food, taste trumps every other factor, including healthy menu options.
As the quick-service industry goes through some disruptive changes and increased competition from businesses like Starbucks, perhaps going back to delivering what made them household brands will keep the fries dropping for decades to come.
Download the full report below: