Authored by Greg Ferguson, Summit Marketing
I freely admit it, I enjoy fast food! A Sonic foot-long chili cheese dog, a Chick-fil-A sandwich and peach milkshake, or tacos and seasoned curly fries from Jack in the Box – it all tastes great.
But the other riders in my car, whether they’re friends or family, don’t always agree. While I want the big breakfast, they want something healthy like oatmeal. When they want a Chicken Apple Cranberry salad, I want a Whopper and onion rings. Luckily, QSR’s understand the need to appeal to more than the typical fast food consumer. Both oatmeal and a Big Breakfast can be found at McDonald’s; and both a Chicken Apple Cranberry salad and a Whopper can be found at Burger King.
First observation: There is a menu option for every demographic and psychographic in your car. Fast food locations understand the power of satisfying their traditional consumer while offering options that reach new consumers.
This was clearly demonstrated on a recent outing with extended family and friends. We stopped in for a quick bite at a QSR location. When we reached the table, I noticed that it was a true smorgasbord. There were light meals, kids meals, healthy meals and the traditional fast food. There were even wraps and frappes. Options, more options, and even more options seem to be the rule of thumb at QSR’s.
What can you add to your current offerings that would reach a different audience segment? Our current “7 Moms Conversation” research indicates moms are looking for smaller menu portions as well as fresh, local ingredients. What can you do to drive additional sales with your key mom segments? More importantly, how are you getting the word out and driving traffic around “new offerings”?
Second observation: Along with numerous meal options, fast food restaurants are now offering multiple dessert options in various sizes. Dessert menus used to include only apple pie or an ice cream cone. Now they include cookies, pies, ice cream, brownies and more. They are looking for their equivalent of that “perfect check” often pursued by fine and casual dine restaurants. Borrowing the “perfect check” concept, QSR’s are increasing check size and provide more reasons for guests to show loyalty and advocacy. Including smaller size items that appeal to those consumers who “just want a bite of something sweet” are also satisfying guest interest in “healthier” options. Starbucks Petites, Mini Blizzards at DQ, mini sundaes at Chick-fil-A and the list goes on.
What additional strategies could QSR’s implement to create more “perfect ticket” customers? Could staff members make periodic rounds to offer dessert or coffee samples at the tables, once guests are dining?
Some consumers don’t buy dessert while initially ordering because it will melt or become stale while they are eating. What about a dessert or drinks/refills-only line at the counter, so it’s easy to make that purchase at the end of a meal? Or offering dessert via a handheld credit card option so guests aren’t required to go back to the counter?
Final observation: Value options are now the norm. One additional strategy QSR’s have developed is offering “value menu” options to drive traffic. As I said at the outset, I like fast food. A colleague asked the other day why fast food instead of lunch at a fast casual restaurant like Panera or Chipotle since the cost is the same. But in my case, that’s not true. The “Why Pay More” menu at Taco Bell offers me a taco, chips and drink for $2.69. A McDouble and fries are only $2.17 at McDonald’s. Again, QSR’s have determined what a certain market segment is looking for and have designed options to target and secure that audience.
What I haven’t seen are value options based on smaller portions. As referenced earlier, our most recent “7 Moms Conversation” research indicates moms are looking for smaller portions at a good value. What value items could be offered to target this segment? Are there healthy options in a smaller portion size that could be added to your value menu?
As in any industry, understanding your consumers and their buying preferences/habits should drive both your offerings and marketing. But you can’t stop there. Determining secondary target segments to expand sales is vital to growth. Data and insights drive innovation. What does your data tell you?
Would any of the ideas above make a difference? Might they be worth considering? Let us know what you’ve seen most recently – in restaurant promotions – that has caught your attention? Also, watch for our upcoming “Food & Fuel” Research Report. It will be packed with fresh insights to help you drive trial and loyalty!