Sunday, April 21, 2024

How and Where Consumers Buy Fast Meals is Evolving


It’s at the intersection of yesterday fast-food restaurant and playground and time starved consumers that today’s consumers is opting for fresh food fast and simple according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  The drive-thru has been a fast-food staple for decades, but the way we get our burgers and fries has been evolving. Let's take a look at how consumer preferences and technology are changing the game.

The Reign of the Drive-Thru

Drive-thru sales have been booming, with estimates suggesting they made up half to over two-thirds of fast -food sales in 2014. This dominance continued through 2019, with figures hovering around 60-70%. The pandemic further solidified its importance, with drive-thru’s reaching over 90% of sales at its peak in 2020, when dining rooms were closed. Even in 2022, around 75% of fast-food sales still came through the drive-thru window.

Beyond the Drive-Thru

While the drive-thru remains a convenient option, new trends are emerging:

·         Delivery: The rise of food delivery apps has impacted fast food. Chains are optimizing their delivery processes and partnering with delivery platforms to reach customers wherever they are.

·         Mobile Ordering & Tech Solutions: Technology is changing the fast-food experience. Mobile apps for ordering, self-service kiosks, and even automated drive-thru systems are becoming more common.

Shifting Consumer Preferences

·         Affordability: Inflation is a concern for many, and fast-food chains are responding with a focus on value for budget-conscious customers.

·         Healthier Options: People, especially younger generations, are demanding healthier choices. Fast food restaurants are offering more nutritious and plant-based options to meet these needs.

·         Sustainability: Environmental responsibility is gaining importance. Fast food chains are implementing eco-friendly practices like reducing plastic waste and sourcing local ingredients.

A Multi-Generational Craving

Differentiation does not mean different it means familiar according to Johnson. Despite these changes, fast food chains continue to attract customers of all ages. There is now truly a multi-generational appeal for fresh food fast. Here are a few examples:

·         Taco Bell: From late-night cravings to family meals, Taco Bell's menu with its crunchy tacos, burritos, and unique offerings remains a crowd-pleaser.

·         Sonic Drive-In: Sonic's retro drive-in experience with burgers, fries, and drink variety offers a dose of nostalgia for all ages.

·         Dairy Queen Grill & Chill: Generations have enjoyed Dairy Queen's soft-serve ice cream, signature shakes, and classic meals, making it a multi-generational favorite.

·         Ponderosa & Bonanza Steakhouses: These iconic buffet-style steakhouses are experiencing a comeback. Families return for the comfort food reminiscent of their past, and the buffet caters to various age groups.

The future of fast food looks like a delicious blend of convenience, technology, and options that cater to our evolving preferences and values. Is your brand keeping up with the evolving consumer?

Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a new menu product segment and brand and menu integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit us on our social media sites by clicking one of the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter

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