After spending time focused on weaning consumers off of the steep dealing used to drive visits during the recession, the major quick-service hamburger chains are back to their roots of offering combo meal deals and consumers are responding, finds the NPD Group, a leading global information company. After several years of declines combo meal visits rose by 1 percent at quick service hamburger restaurants in the year ending February 2016 compared to the same period a year ago, and entire increase was driven by combo meal deals.
Combo meals, which previously were three menu items offered at a bundled price, had been declining in popularity for several years because consumers wanted more choices and the ability to customize. Over the past six months, one chain after another has introduced value-oriented combo meals that offer choices. Wendy’s introduced a 4 for $4 Meal, McDonald’s launched the McPick 2 for $2 offering, and then changed the offer to 2 for $5 with a different product offering. Burger King followed suit with a five-for-$4 deal and a number of other quick-service chains have added a value proposition of one kind or another to their menu.
Consumers are responding to these combo meal offers and consider them deals. Combo meals purchased on a deal at lunch and dinner rose from a rate of 6 percent in the year ending February 2015 to 8 percent in the year ending February 2016. This increase resulted in an additional 110 million combo meal deal orders or a total of 686 million orders. All three major hamburger chains, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s, offering combo meal deals were, collectively, entirely responsible for the order increases.
“This once again suggests that given the right promotional offer at the right time, dealing can generate positive traffic growth,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst and author of the recently released report, "Value Wars: A New Twist on Combo Meal Deals." “The response also points to the importance consumers place on the ability to customize and have choices.”