Even though the restaurant industry sees distinctions between fast-food and fast-casual concepts—two different types of limited-service restaurants—those lines are starting to blur for consumers, who note fewer distinctions between the two segments in areas like overall value, friendly service, craveability and menu variety. With increasing competition, limited-service concepts that cater to a variety of needs and occasions will likely be the most successful according to Technomic.
Consumers report that convenient delivery or ordering services, such as call-ahead or online ordering, could encourage them to patronize limited-service restaurants more often. Beyond convenience, 53 percent of fast-casual consumers expect an upscale, relaxing atmosphere, and 17 percent (up from 12 percent in 2012) will go elsewhere if this is not offered.
"Limited-service restaurants will need to compete for visitation by focusing on their convenience platforms, amenities and ambiance in addition to the quality of their ingredients," said Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic, Inc. "Fast-food concepts in particular can differentiate themselves and better compete with fast-casual concepts by adding loyalty programs, free Wi-Fi, or enhancing their ambiance."
To help foodservice executives understand the latest behaviors, preferences and attitudes of consumers regarding the limited-service restaurant industry, Technomic has published an update of its Future of LSR: Fast-Food & Fast-Casual Restaurant Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include:
- Sixty-four percent of consumers report visiting fast-food restaurants at least weekly, and 40 percent patronize fast casuals as often.
- Patronage is significantly more frequent at fast-food than at fast-casual concepts; twice as many consumers visit fast-food (39 percent) as fast-casual (19 percent) restaurants more often than once a week.
- Delivery occasions have increased slightly at LSRs. Further, more than a quarter expect fast-food (30 percent) and fast-casual (28 percent) delivery, while similar proportions say this service could encourage patronage.
- Half of fast-casual customers (53 percent) say that healthy options are important, and 63 percent even expect them. Fast-casual users are slightly more willing than fast-food users to pay more for better-for-you items.
About 5.6% of U.S. adults call themselves fast-food lovers and eat at these establishments 4–5 times a week. This audience skews male (64.9%) and younger — just over 60% are between the ages of 18 and 34 according to Ad-ology Research. Just over half of these consumers, 50.5%, enjoy attending sports events in person. Local restaurants may be able to generate additional business from fast-food lovers by promoting special deals on the radio just before game time. 37% of these consumers have taken action as a result of a radio ad they've heard in the past 30 days.
AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to Ad-ology PRO. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.