One fast-food brand is offering a small bright spot in otherwise grim economic times for the industry.
Qdoba has been gaining customers, according to YouGov BrandIndex data. Americans are more likely to purchase from the Mexican restaurant chain than they were at the end of March.
Of those aware of the brand, 2.5 percent are likely to purchase from Qdoba, compared to 1.5 percent on March 30, when shelter-in-place and social distancing measures had settled over much of the United States.
Like other restaurants, Qdoba moved to limited-contact ordering and closed dine-in service as locations moved to to-go service only as of March 19. In late April, the restaurant chain announced its campaign to give away free burritos to “everyday heroes” during the pandemic.
Year-over-year look at the sector
YouGov tracks how various business sectors have been performing throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and sales at fast-food restaurants has taken an unsurprising dip. During the week of April 20, 2020, intent to purchase across the whole sector was down 11 percentage points compared to the same period in 2019.
In general, fear of catching COVID-19 among Americans has flattened at 60 percent, according to YouGov’s International COVID-19 tracker. Further, ongoing research conducted by YouGov and Imperial College London on behaviors across the globe shows 73 percent of Americans have either frequency or always avoid going out in general.
So, how are people getting takeout?
State of delivery
YouGov has also collected other consumer behavior around dining out, including how Americans are contacting restaurants, particularly frequent fast-food diners (those who typically eat fast food more than once a month).
According to a survey conducted in mid-April, more than a quarter (27 percent) of frequent fast-food eaters have contacted the restaurant directly to place their order during the COVID-19 pandemic. A little more than one in five (23 percent) say they have been using a drive-thru option, while 20 percent have been ordering through food delivery apps such as Uber Eats or DoorDash.
A quarter (25 percent) of those who typically frequent fast-food restaurants say they haven’t been ordering during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, in separate research, we asked Americans what they look forward to most once social distancing directives are relaxed and results show a clear picture of pent up demand for eating out. More than half (54%) of Americans say they’re excited to dine at a restaurant or bar, which was the most common answer along with visiting family and friends (54%). Roughly three in ten (29%) said they’re looking forward to visiting a coffee shop or bakery.
Methodology: Purchase Intent for Qdoba is based on a sample size of 1,247 US adults who are aware of the brand. Figures are based on a four-week moving average. Order-type preferences are based on 1,102 US adults who say they eat fast food more than once per month.
Ted Marzilli is CEO of YouGov Direct, and previously led YouGov’s Data Product’s division. Prior to joining YouGov, Marzilli was Senior Vice President, Corporate Development at The Nielsen Company where he developed global strategy and launched innovative services related to loyalty marketing, in-store media and the financial services industry.