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What really drives consumers’ fast-food spending?

fast food consumers

Consumers may not be telling the truth when they’re asked why they frequent one limited-service restaurant chain instead of another for lunch, suggests a new piece of research.

Although customers profess that for the lunch daypart, they’re drawn to an LSR brand by the traditional lures of price, location, food type and service speed, the real hooks are familiarity and being comfortable with the menu options, the data shows.

Indeed, says the firm Catapult Marketing, three reasons for picking a particular chain were equally important, and two of the three pivoted on an emotional connection with what the guest intended to order. The analysis shows a customer considers the options and heads for the place that offers traditional flavors and food that tastes like something homemade.

The third factor, Catapult says, is the breadth of choice. All three considerations are of equal importance, it noted.

The criteria change considerably at dinner, the researcher noted. For the evening meal, an LSR customer is more likely to be in an adventurous mood. A brand gaining in popularity is likely to have an edge, Catapult concluded, as will a place that’s viewed as trendy and known to use local ingredients.

“Universally, people claim that the primary drivers of restaurant selection are affordability, great tasting food and a satisfying meal,” Doug Molnar, a VP and senior director of planning for Catapult, said in an analysis of the data. “But when we determine what actually drives brand preference, those attributes are replaced by factors such as offering traditional flavors and a home-made taste [for lunch], and seeking new food options or a trendy place [for dinner].” 

The study looked specifically at quick-service and fast-casual restaurant preferences.

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