In a recent report from Suillivan Higdon & Sink FoodThink titled "QSRs and America's Changing Tastes," researchers highlighted quick-service restaurant consumer trends, from more desire in menu variety to the differences between what women and men look for in a quick-service restaurant. Senior FoodThink researcher Erika Chance answered QSR Magazine's questions about the report.
The report talks about cost, quality, and location being the main motivators for dining at a quick-service restaurant. But is it possible that a unique experience could outweigh any of those motivators and if so, which one?
Certainly, a unique experience can outweigh cost and location—at least, some of the time. We all know regional chains that have national cult followings partly because of the concept’s relative scarcity of location. In addition, if the experience is highly unique or highly specialized, some consumers can be persuaded to accept lower quality though, in those cases, frequency can become an issue.
Besides location, quality, and cost, what are some areas in which motivators align across various demographics?
People also are driven by options and variety. Fourty percent of consumers consider menu variety to be extremely or very important to them when choosing a quick service restaurant. This degree of importance holds true for males and females, parents, high-income and low-income adults, and Millennials and Gen X-ers. Boomers and pre-Boomers care somewhat less about menu variety. Millennials, parents, and those who prefer organic food also crave new, innovative flavors and menu items and snack sizes. Looking at the buying power of these groups, it’s clear that the days of a limited, non-customizable menu are gone. Quick-service restaurant customers of today and especially tomorrow are going to be motivated by creativity and customization which allows them to get exactly what they are craving.
What is the balance between slowing down serving speeds and customization? If consumers want quick-service restaurants to fit into their busy lifestyles, will they have to sacrifice customization?
Everything we’ve seen indicates that customers simply don’t expect to sacrifice customization when they want quick service. And there are many concepts that encourage high levels of customization. That can be highly appealing to some customers. And it will continue to grow in importance.
What sets Millenials apart from other demographics in terms of what they look for in a quick-service restaurant?
Millennials’ tastes and needs deserve the attention from today’s quick service restaurants. For example, Millennials will say unique drinks and desserts, innovative menu ideas, and interesting flavors can sway them to one quick-service restaurant over the other—from Taco Bell’s newly launched breakfast menu that targets specifically younger Millennial men to Pizza Hut’s recent flavor profile revamp of its pizzas to include more sophisticated flavor combinations that appeal to Millennials. It’s critical to capture this audience, not only because they’re frequent users, but they’re also likely influencers: heavy quick-service restaurant users, Millennials, are 37 percent more likely than the average consumer to follow a restaurant on social media. Some other notable things that set this consumer segment apart is their desire for good kids menus since many in the older half of the generation are starting families.
By Alex Dixon