The last decade in quick service was a transformative one. Fast-casual restaurants moved from novel ideas in urban markets to competitive powerhouses with seemingly no ceiling. Health and nutrition became critical filters through which brands vetted their new menu items. And the Great Recession reset growth strategies, with limited-service players shifting their focus to more efficient, streamlined, and calculated expansion.
Sam Oches is <i>QSR</i>’s editor.
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Millennials. Ever heard of ’em?
Of course you have. Millennials are all anyone in foodservice can talk about right now, the crème de la crème of today’s coveted customer demographics. Depending on whom you ask, they might be 20 years old or they might be 35 years old; studies vary on what, exactly, the age range for Millennials should be. But there’s no doubt that whatever their age and whatever you call them, the young, pre-family customers of today are driving food trends and throwing quick-service brands into a tizzy of new product development and promotional innovation.
Since the advent of the modern quick-service drive thru—some would say in the early 1970s, though the idea of a pick-up window has been around for much longer—operators have tinkered with the nuts and bolts to create a drive thru that is as fast, efficient, and pleasant as possible. Innovations throughout the years, from wireless headsets and order-confirmation boards to dual lanes and pre-sell signage, have created a better drive thru capable of handling the 60–70 percent of business that now loops the exterior of most quick-service restaurants.
All Rick and Elise Wetzel wanted was to have some pizza for lunch.
In 2012, Chick-fil-A surpassed KFC to become the best-selling chicken chain, Jimmy John’s and Five Guys joined the billion-dollar-brands club, and fast-growing Wingstop and Moe’s Southwest Grill climbed into the limited-service industry’s upper echelon for the first time. McDonald’s, meanwhile, maintained its stranglehold on the No. 1 position, nearly tripling runner-up Subway’s domestic sales. Dig deep into the data driving the quick-service and fast-casual restaurant industries with this year’s QSR 50.