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How the QSR Industry Can Decide Which Consumer Trends to Follow

Posted by Craig Fissel

Jul 29, 2016 3:30:00 PM

How the QSR industry can decide which consumer trends to follow

From creative ways to showcase spam to fairy bread and sriracha sauce, food trends come and go; embracing the wrong trends can cost you.  Following trends can help you capitalize on popularity and offer items that are likely to be accepted by your target demographic — provided you choose trends that have some staying power.

Choose the wrong trend to follow and you could miss out in a variety of ways.

  • The trend is over by the time you react to it. Developing a new item and the associated branding and packaging that go with it takes time — by the time you are ready to roll out, some trends will have already started to fade. Understanding that trends do have a lifecycle and some last longer than others allows you to act quickly when you feel a particular trend warrants action. Take too long to act or choose a trend that doesn’t last and your advertising and marketing will feel stale and tired by the time consumers see it.
  • You invest time, money and advertising in a trend that ends up just being a passing craze, and your sales don’t reflect the amount you’ve invested. If you do not properly research a new trend and just forge ahead, you could waste valuable resources trying to react to what ends up being a flash in the pan: quick, high-interest trend that fades rapidly. You won’t be able to recover your costs if a trend doesn’t hit as well as you anticipate.
  • The trend is not a good match for your brand and customer. In this case, the trend is a valid one amongst many groups — but not your primary target. While embracing a trend can expose you to more customers, it can also alienate your existing base if you make too many changes. Not every popular trend is going to resonate with your client base, and trying to force it on your customers could have consequences.

How can you tell which QSR industry trends will last and are worth investing in? There is no exact formula, but considering the amount of search traffic a trend gets, its popularity with Millennials and teens and its popularity with leading and experimental chefs can help you forecast.

Search Traffic

How many people are actually searching for the trending food item in your geographic area (if applicable) and what terms are they using? Studying the searchability of a trend and noting if it is still on the rise or if it has plateaued (or worse, dropped) can give you some insight into the durability of its popularity and let you know if the trend is worth embracing. Consider how many people are searching for your target trend, the frequency of the searches and what specific terms are being used as you research to determine if a new food craze is worth pursuing.

Popularity with Millennials and Teens

According to researchers with the Hartman group, Baby Boomers are no longer the driving force behind food culture and trends. Millennials and teens have taken over and are reshaping the way consumers think about food and the way the QSR industry approaches trends. According to a recent study on food trends and Millennials, this group is the driving force behind an uptick in interest in healthy options and more diversity in cuisine. By targeting those trends that appeal to this huge and thriving group (of an estimated 81+ million consumers) you are more likely to invest in a trend that will last.

Popularity with Experimental or Top Chefs

Popular chefs who make headlines can drive trends all on their own. If the trending item or technique you’re researching is getting a lot of press, it can be an indicator of longevity. The more press and publicity a trend gets, the more chance it has to endure and be embraced. If the chefs your target customer admires and follows embrace a trend, that consumer may be more likely to stick around as well.

You can’t always accurately predict QSR trends, but researching the ways people are searching, the popularity of a particular theme or item with young adults and watching for foods that make headlines can help you target the right fads to pursue. Simply being aware that some trends will outlast and outperform others will help you make the best decisions for your brand and ensure that you do not spend time, capital and resources on a trend that simply won’t last.

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Written by: Craig Fissel

Topics: Food Service, Trends, QSR