AdTheorent, Inc., a digital advertising leader using advanced machine learning technology and solutions to deliver real-world value for advertisers, announced the results of AdTheorent’s Dining Trends Report, based on research conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of AdTheorent among over 2,000 U.S. adults. The AdTheorent-commissioned research sought to identify key dining trends related to consumers’ interaction with quick service and fast casua restaurants.

AdTheorent’s report highlights important factors driving food purchase, visitation, menu trends and the benefits of elevating the customer experience throughout the dining journey.

The global fast food market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 4.2 percent, expected to be worth more than $690 billion by 2022.1 As competition in the dining industry continues to increase, it is crucial for quick-serve and fast-casual brands to gain consumer mind-share and wallet-share. AdTheorent’s Dining Trends report shows that a majority of Americans use their mobile devices and restaurant-specific apps throughout the dining journey.  Personalization is a key factor in building positive brand associations and driving repeat visitation, with consumers embracing artificial intelligence if it drives personalization and efficient experiences.  Additionally, the report highlights increased credit card and mobile wallet usage and a desire for healthier plant-based menu items and locally-sourced ingredients.

THE ROLE OF MOBILE: Majority of consumers are turning to their mobile devices when making dining decisions

70% of consumers use their mobile devices on their quick-serve/fast casual food purchasing journey

Consumers turn to their mobile devices to:

Look for coupons/deals (42%)

Look up menu items (38%)

Search for the nearest location (37%)

Place a food order (32%)

Pay for a food order (28%)

App usage is on the rise:

1/3 of consumers say they are placing take-out (34%) and delivery (33%) quick-serve/fast casual food orders online via a mobile app more now than compared to 2 years ago

56% of consumers say that the ability to place food orders online via a mobile app would make them order more frequently from a restaurant

57% of consumers have a quick-serve or fast casual app

52% have a quick-serve app (18% of consumers have 3 or more)

44% have a food delivery service app (11% of consumers have 3 or more food delivery apps)

36% have an fast casual app (11% of consumers have 3 or more FCR apps)

89% of consumers who have fast casual/quick-serve apps use them once a month or more

59% of consumers who have fast casual/quick-serve apps use them once a week or more

43% of consumers who have a quick-serve or fast casual app were motivated to download a quick-serve /FCR app due to a digital (mobile or computer) ad, while only 22% were motivated by a TV ad and 7% by a billboard ad

DRIVING VISITATION: Digital advertising, especially on mobile, is essential for driving visits to restaurant locations and an effective messaging strategy is key

The top promotional/advertising motivators for consumers to visit a quick-serve/FCR:

Digital ads (mobile and/or computer – 58%)

TV ads (39%)

Launch of new menu item (31%)

Email from restaurant (28%)

Billboard ad (13%)

The top digital ads that motivate action:

Ad featuring a special offer (38%)

Ad with a location-based coupon (26%)

Ad featuring a food item (26%)

Ad that is personalized (24%)

Ad that is eye catching/unique (21%)

Competitive conquesting is an effective tactic:

About 1 in 4 consumers (24%) say they would be compelled to visit a competitor’s restaurant instead if they received a competitor’s mobile device ad while on the way to a quick-serve/fast casual location

PERSONALIZED and RELEVENT ADS: Customization is key for a positive brand experience

71% of consumers say receiving an ad that is relevant or tailored to them from a quick-serve/fast casual brand would cause them to have a more favorable opinion of that brand

Nearly half (46%) of consumers say receiving a random advertisement that is not relevant to them would cause them to have a less favorable opinion of that brand

Majority of consumers would be more likely to visit a quick-serve/FCR if they received a personalized ad based on:

Past orders (70%)

Their location (66%)

PAYMENT: Cash is no longer king – credit card and credit card via mobile wallet payments are increasing

49% of consumers would prefer to pay with a mobile wallet app or credit card instead of cash when purchasing food from quick-serves/fast casuals

For quick-serves specifically:

2 years ago, 40% paid for quick-serve food using a credit card; and currently, 43% use a credit card

Compared to 2 years ago, use of a credit card via mobile wallet app increased from 11% to 19%

For fast casuals specifically:

2 years ago, 43% paid for fast casual food using a credit card; and currently, 45% using a credit card

Compared to 2 years ago, use of a credit card via mobile wallet app increased from 12% to 18%

MENU TRENDS: More options equate to more orders

41% of consumers say new menu items would cause them to go into quick-serve/fast casuals to purchase food more often, and 31% say the same of larger selection of menu items

If selecting a quick-serve/fast casual restaurant, 64% of consumers would choose one with healthy menu options over one that did not have those options

What consumers want to see on the menu:

Larger variety of meal options (41%)

Healthier alternatives (37%)

Low calorie options (30%)

Locally sourced ingredients (25%)

Plant-based options (18%)

Vegetarian options (16%)

Vegan options (11%)

CBD-infused options (11%)


71% of consumers would be open to quick-serves/fast casuals incorporating AI into their businesses, if such use:

Drove down menu item costs (43%)

Sped-up ordering process (42%)

Improved the customer experience (40%)

Sped-up food preparation process (34%)

Offered personalized food recommendations based on previous orders (22%)

Many consumers would be interested in the following AI technologies if they were purchasing from quick-serves/fast casuals:

Using a touchscreen ordering system, i.e., entering order on a device instead of giving it to a human (66%)

Using a personalized ordering screen, i.e., a digital ordering system that suggests menu items based on different variables, like time of day, current or past orders (55%)

Using a voice assisted ordering system, i.e., speaking your order to a machine versus a human (42%)

Having food order delivered by a drone (37%)

Having robots/machines prepare their food (31%)

TAKEOUT AND DELIVERY: More consumers are eating at home or on-the-go and prefer to order online when purchasing food from quick-serves/ fast casuals

50% say they place more takeout and/or delivery orders online now compared to two years ago

26% percent say they place less takeout and/or delivery orders via phone now compared to two years ago

52% prefer to order quick-serve/fast casual delivery online

35% via a mobile device

17% via a computer

50% prefer to order quick-serve/fast casual

takeout online

34% via a mobile device

16% via a computer

“At AdTheorent we use non-sensitive data signals (aggregated from digital device users) and machine learning to drive advertiser business objectives. This is especially important for [quick service and fast-casual] brands and marketers who continue to face many diverse competitors while aiming to please consumers who expect more, for less,” says Jim Lawson, CEO of AdTheorent.  “We commissioned this research to gain additional insights about the dining vertical as we refine product offerings and solutions, and we are excited to leverage these learnings in future campaigns.”

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