NEWS9 September 2014

Fast food fast losing favour

News North America

US — The newer breed of fast-casual food retailers such as Chipotle and Panera, are gaining ground at the expense of the fast-food giants such as McDonald’s and Burger King, as generations of consumers look for a different type of quick dining experience.

Research by Brand Keys in the US found that each of the three generations — Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials — were moving away from the classic fast food outlets in favour of the slightly more refined eating of the fast-casual wave of restaurants that’s evolved.

Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president said: “You only have to look at the same-store sales of brands like McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell to see the shift that’s taking place.”

The 3,000-consumer study examined attitudes and behaviours of 1,000 consumers in each of three generational cohorts and found that Baby Boomers reported an 18% drop in visits partly because they want better service. There was a 20% increase in visits to fast-casual restaurants among this group.

“Not surprisingly this group placed an extraordinarily high values on health and living well,” said Passikoff. “They can afford, what nearly a third of the sample ( 32%) called, ‘quality food,’ something that they attribute more to the fast casual restaurants than they do to the traditional fast food brands.”

Among Generation X the motivation was what Passikoff called “value for dollar” as they reported an 11% fall in visits. “The Gen X group is more pragmatic about their decisions about eating out, so they seem to be more vulnerable to value positioning,” said Passikoff.

Meanwhile the youngest generation, the Millennials, reported a 20% decrease in fast food chain visits and 42% increase to fast-casual restaurants in the past year. “Millennials are, perhaps, our most sophisticated segment right now,” said Passikoff.

When asked to describe traditional fast food brands more than half of this group ( 53%) called it “dollar food”. Almost all Millennials ( 89%) said they looked for fast, casual food that they deemed tastier, healthier, and more customised, than fast food.