Poll: Fast food/Fast casual face-off intensifying

The lines are blurring but the battle is heating up for customers between fast food and fast casual restaurants, according to a survey identifying a number of priority foodservice industry issues.

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There’s a whole battle brewing on the limited-service restaurant front, with this one pitting traditional fast food against the new kid on the block, fast casual. That’s one of the key findings from a survey of more than 1,800 U.S. consumers last month by location-based technology company Bluedot, which resulted in the fourth installment of its report on the state of what feeds us.

The company is monitoring an increase in drive-through visits and curbside and in-store pickups, since the pandemic took hold nationwide. This latest report offers a year-long review of changing consumer dining habits precipitated by the pandemic, including growing competition between fast food/QSR brands and fast casual restaurants, now that pandemic restrictions are s soften. The latest data shows consistent consumer behavior across both restaurant categories, which Bluedot says signals that the distinctions between the two categories are disappearing.

“It remains to be seen whether fast-casual brands will regain the customers they lost to fast-food restaurants last year,” Bluedot CEO Emil Davityan said in the statement. “The data clearly indicates that long wait times are a vulnerability for fast food restaurants as they compete to attract customers.

“Brands that have accelerated investments in technology and logistics to deliver faster, smoother service during the pandemic are starting to level the playing field, but now there is a race to roll out the restaurants of the future. is the next evolution of personalization, speed and convenience coupled with a unique brand experience that will best position restaurants to gain market share.”

Key findings from the survey are categorized into specific categories, including:

  • Fast food reigns supreme, far surpassing fast casual and casual dining more than twice in the past month, with 45% saying they’ve visited fast-food restaurants primarily, if not exclusively, rather than fast-casual dining. Fast food versus casual dining visits were slightly higher at 47%.
  • Drive-through visits remain at pandemic levels and have increased 36% since the early days of the pandemic, with nine out of 10 respondents having visited in the past month. In fact, 70% visited the drive-thru as often or more often in the past month, up from 68% in February. Additionally, 35% said they were more likely to spend more on drive-thru, followed by restaurant (24%) and counter (20%) apps. Consumers said order accuracy and speed topped the list of what they wanted through drive-thru and what would bring them back to restaurants in the future.
  • Curbside pickups at fast food restaurants have dropped significantly from 77% in February to 57% last month. Additionally, 47% used curbside pickups as often or more frequently, a sharp drop from 67% in February.
  • The arrival experience is a failurewith only 32% of those who said they wanted automated curbside check-in actually got it.
  • In-store fast food pickups plummet from 89% in February to 79% last month.
  • Consumers increasingly see no distinctions between fast food and fast casual, although 51% said they would go to fast casual more often if they had a drive-thru. But notably, consumers expect to visit fast food brands more in the future, with 41% planning to visit fast casuals and fast food equally and 25% planning to visit fast casuals more than fast foods.
  • Speed ​​of service and wait times remain major issues with 85% leaving a long queue, up from 77% in February. And in fast food, the acceptable wait continues to decline to a total of 6 minutes in the drive-thru, down from 10 minutes in August 2020. Consumers are even deleting restaurant apps when wait times are judged too long, with 48% of those who said they use apps to bypass long queues saying they would also delete them if they had to wait for them to arrive.

When it comes to mobile apps, consumers said they download them to get faster and easier services and coupons (56%) and restaurant apps are now more popular than third-party apps. but they are also deleted by 28% of respondents, while only 39% keep apps for at least six months, compared to 46% in February.

When it comes to which restaurants consumers want to see evolvehere are the priorities of consumers:

  • More drive-thru options. 63% want drive-thru lanes for mobile orders, far outpacing other restaurant innovations. 31% would revisit a restaurant if it had a dedicated mobile drive-thru lane.
  • Modern menu boards. 40% said a menu board confirming their order was a top reason they revisit a drive-thru.
  • Advanced customization. 29% said personalized deals and offers would keep them coming back to a specific drive-thru. Going forward, 34% want menu boards that display their loyalty points and coupon offers, while 24% want a menu board that greets them by name and knows their regular order.
  • Text order. 35% want to be able to send their order by SMS to restaurants.
  • Arrive smarter. 35% would download an app if it meant restaurants knew when they were on their way or arrived.

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