Is there such a thing as the stereotypical, American quick-service (fast food) customer? There might have been in days gone by, but industry experts say that the fast food crowd is become decidedly diverse.
Wendy's Love Affair with the Baby Boomers and GenXers
People born between 1946 and 1980 who were raised on meals that consisted of meat, salad, potatoes and vegetables represents a large chunk of the U.S population who regularly spends a large chunk of their money on eating out.
Currently, the fast-food place now synonymous with catering to the middle-aged crowd is Wendy's-- and the menu shows.
Once known for its burgers, fries and chili, Wendy's has placed a great emphasis on their non-traditional offerings like baked potatoes, a variety of salads containing fruits and vegetables and an advertising campaign that is not focused on gratifying the typical, toy-loving toddler.
The Quirkiness of Millenials
While young adults may be the ones bagging up your Big Mac and fries at your local McDonald's, they sure aren't the ones eating there. In fact, the burger chain is actually worried about the fact that young adults are deliberately avoiding their stores in favor of Taco Bell, Panera, Chipotle and Subway.
Although surveyed Millenials say they want healthier food choices, this assertion contradicts their continued patronage to places like Taco Bell, where a recent flap over the ingredients of their hamburger has people wondering "where the beef" actually comes from.
The Melting Pot of American Eating Habits
According to the U.S. Census World Population Clock, the population of the U.S has already surpassed 319,000,000-- and every 40 seconds, one international migrant enters the country.
Highly urbanized and holding the #3 position as the most populous country in the world, the U.S. can no longer be represented by the worn-out image of the Anglophone, middle-aged white man. Instead, our nation is now a melting pot of large groups of African, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and European people-- all of whom have developed a taste for the uniquely American style of fast food restaurants.
A report published by the Food Institute states that Latino Americans (who tend identify just as strongly with their cultural heritage as they do their country of residence) spend nearly 40 percent of their food budget on meals purchased outside the home--an average of about $3000 per family each year. Experts suggest that as the Hispanic and Latino population continues increasing in the U.S., fast food companies will need to develop initiatives that cater to this influential demographic or potentially suffer significant financial losses. It could be that McDonald's needs to start thinking outside the American flag.
An equally vital ethnicity in the development of marketing for quick-serve eating establishments are African-Americans, who will make up a significant minority, 15 percent, of the population over the next 30 years. Spending almost 36 percent of their food budget on food prepared outside the home, African-Americans are yet another demographic that demands targeted marketing by fast food companies who wish o to remain successful in a ferociously competitive industry.
Expanding the Dollar Menu
American fast food restaurants that have expanded overseas are no strangers to catering to local tastes-- such as McDonald's Teriyaki McBurger or Shrimp Fillet-O in Japan-- and it may be time that this multicultural approach was brought home.
Including ethnic foods on the menus of quick-serve restaurants operating in neighborhoods with high percentages of certain ethnic groups are just one of the ways fast foods places can appeal to an increasingly diverse U.S. population. If an Arby's franchise owner wants to open a restaurant in a Hispanic neighborhood, for example, that owner might consider adding traditionally Hispanic foods and flavors to the menu.
Though industry experts predict that it will likely be expensive to enhance a menu in the beginning, but the potential for long-term success after the initial expenditure far outweighs the potential for long-term success in an establishment that doesn't cater to local culture.