Commentary

QSRs Vs. Fast Casual, Appealing To The Appetites Of The Total Market

The quick service industry is undergoing a radical shift. Diners are moving away from the monotony of traditional quick service restaurants (QSRs) to fast casual formats with higher quality ingredients and a more customized experience. 

And perennial industry leaders, like McDonald’s, are starting to feel the burn. While still dominant, they’re starting to lose market share to upstarts in the burger business as well as other food categories, like Mexican, as seen with the explosive growth of Chipotle. 

So what does this mean for these legacy QSR brands? To help answer that question, we asked both Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike to give us a little feedback on quick service restaurant trends in four main categories:

  • Frequency/Choice
  • Value
  • Quality
  • Selection

Frequency/Choice

The most popular of the fast food restaurants, based on at least one visit in the past 12 months, for Hispanics and non-Hispanics, wasn’t surprising:

#1 – McDonald’s

#2 – Subway

#3 – Burger King (tied with Wendy’s for non-Hispanics)

Farther down the rankings, there were some real differences, however. For example, while 44% of Hispanics have been to a Domino’s Pizza at least once in the past 12 months, it dropped to 28% for Whites. Similarly, while 25% of Hispanics enjoyed Carl’s Jr. this past year, only 8% of African Americans dined there. Interestingly, the numbers were reversed for Hardee’s (sister company of Carl’s Jr.), with 20% for African Americans and only 6% for Hispanics.

On a related note, 33% of Hispanics said they ate at McDonald’s at least once a week, though as acculturation levels increased, that number decreased to 35% for low and medium acculturated, dropping to 29% for highly acculturated.

Likewise, while 23% said they ate at Subway once a week, it turned out to be 20% for less acculturated Hispanics, 33% for medium acculturated, dropping to 10% for highly acculturated.

So, which fast food restaurants do Hispanics like most?

Interestingly, the #1 choice for Asians was Chipotle. Among Hispanics, Chipotle is most popular among biculturals and those earning $40K or more per year.

Value

This was a clean sweep. All groups selected McDonald’s as offering the most value. And it wasn’t even close. All second-place finishers were at least 20-30 percentage points behind. 

Quality

This time, Wendy’s came out on top. Followed not-so-closely by Burger King (#2) and Carl’s Jr. (#3) for Hispanics and McDonald’s and Burger King for non-Hispanics.

Selection

Who’s got the most varied menu? Again, McDonald’s takes the lead, with Wendy’s close behind.

Are QSRs in trouble?

In the immediate future, of course not. This study, along with many others, clearly shows that all ethnic groups regularly eat fast food. And despite reports of McDonald’s slumping sales, Big Macs still rule the roost. 

However, legacy QSR brands like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King do have to take note of the obvious shift in momentum. Value and selection scores may be keeping them alive right now, but quality tends to trump quantity in the long run. QSRs need to improve their quality considerably, if they’re going to keep up with the change in America’s palate and spending behavior, especially among the Hispanic community. 

And here’s why. Studies show that Hispanics’ overall restaurant visits have outpaced its population growth, up 4% compared to the 1% decline among Non-Hispanics. The average U.S. Hispanic consumer visits QSRs more than the average non-Hispanic consumer. And if you take into consideration that Hispanics tend to be more brand loyal once you earn their trust, winning them over should be a key objective of every marketing plan.

Overall, QSR brands are getting better at creating culturally targeted advertising. And a continued effort to understand total market consumer sentiment toward these brands and their competitors will provide the greatest hedge against the erosion of brand preference.

1 comment about "QSRs Vs. Fast Casual, Appealing To The Appetites Of The Total Market".
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  1. cara marcano from reporte hispano, May 28, 2015 at 1:02 p.m.

    To me this says: Both McDonald's And Chipotle And Subway and many of these QSRs should increase their Spanish-speaking media spends and get them out of National Network TV only. 

    Traditionally -- QSRs-- are much more of a luxury item in Latin America and this explains to me why you see such higher brand affiliation among non-US born Latin Americans who have not been mainstreamed away from what is a lovely, high-end outing in Latin America - eating at the QSR in the high-end mall.  I'd be curious what other folks who live in Latin America today might say about this?! 

    This also to me really shows the value of the Spanish-speaking, non-US born Latino now living in the US for sales growth. And how really under invested against they are by all of these major brands. We need to get the media investments in Spanish and beyond just Univision for all of these companies. It is pretty clear that there is opportunity here in Spanish-speaking, non-US born market that does not exist for these companies in the mainstream US market. 

    Love to hear what others think !  

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