Unhappy meal: Consumers losing taste for fast food

Unhappy meal: Consumers losing taste for fast food

By Meatingplace Editors on 9/11/2014

Americans of all ages are visiting quick-service restaurants much less frequently in a big shift from just a year ago, a new survey by consulting firm Brand Keys has found.

Baby Boomers reported an 18 percent drop in visits to fast-food restaurants but a 20 percent increase in visits to fast-casual brands such as Panera and Chipotle, in pursuit of “quality food,” Brand Keys said. The consultants noted the shift coincides with declining sale-store sales reported by McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell.

Millennials reported a 20 percent decrease in visits to fast-food chains and a 42 percent jump in fast-casual visits, while fast-food visits by Gen X consumers fell by 11 percent and their visits to fast-casual restaurants rose by the same percentage.

Brand Keys conducted the survey of 3,000 consumers in the third quarter of this year, examining attitudes and behaviors for the three demographic groups across nine U.S. Census regions and focusing on major national brands.

The survey found that Baby Boomers also expect better as well as faster service, while both Boomers and Millennials indicated interior design was a major difference between quick-service and fast-casual. The Gen X group was the most pragmatic and value-conscious.

“The traditional fast-food brands have tried to be all things to all customers for years now and the results should have informed them long ago how that was going to turn out. Longer menus have just resulted in longer waits, but more significantly, a real dilution of what the brand means,” Brand Keys said.

Baby Boomers’ top three restaurant choices were Panera, Au Bon Pan and Applebee’s, while Millennials preferred Chipotle, Panera and Five Guys Burgers, and Gen Xers favored Subway, Chipotle and Au Bon Pan.