What Do Today’s Fast Food Junkies Like?

Convenience and price aren't the only things fast food lovers are looking for anymore.
October 06, 2011

The Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry is huge. According to Hoover’s, the fast food and quick-service restaurant industry includes more than 200,000 restaurant locations with combined annual revenue of about $155 billion. Busy, time-starved consumers continue to frequent these establishments in droves, and I don’t expect that trend to slow down anytime soon.

Years ago, when fast food restaurants—lots of them being franchises—were springing up everywhere, consumers were attracted to them for a couple of reasons: convenience and price.

Ray Kroc was certainly ahead of the curve by setting up his McDonald’s franchises in “convenient” locations; right by all of the new highways that were being built in the 1950’s. By 1965, he had put up 700 McDonald’s restaurants. These appealed to the families that were starting to take advantage of freeway travel; they needed to make stops to refuel both their automobiles and their bodies. Kroc made it easy to do both.

At the time, it was pretty inexpensive for a family of four to dine at a McDonald’s restaurant. (In 1964, hamburger prices were 15 cents.) Price played a big part in the growth of McDonald’s early on, and consumers came to expect low prices at every fast food chain they frequented.

While convenience and price are still important considerations for consumers these days, the annual consumer restaurant chain survey done by Market Force, a Colorado-based customer experience information firm, found that there are actually a couple of other attributes that truly reign supreme these days.

To try to find out why customers chose one fast food restaurant over another, Market Force pooled consumers on food quality, taste, speed of service, friendliness, cleanliness and value. The experts at Market Force concluded that, “Friendly service was the category with the most differentiation. The least variation was found in the taste category, which suggests that consumers see the most differentiation—and value—in those restaurants with the best service and friendliness.”

If you’d like to find out which fast food chains were chosen as consumer’s favorites in the survey this year, check it out in its entirety.

It’s quite refreshing to learn that sometimes, it’s not about the price.

Years ago, I actually remember a sales manager trying to convince me that customers weren’t necessarily always looking for the lowest price on something. Instead, he said, most customers were just looking to be treated nicely, and get their problems solved. He was right.

There are some other things that all small businesses can do to stay in the game. Read what Open Forum contributor John Mariotti says about these nine fundamentals. It’s a keeper.

I’m curious, what’s important to you, when you go to a fast food restaurant?