Top 10 Favorite Fast Food Chains: McDonald’s Still #1

April 10, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Hispanic | Men | Retail & E-Commerce | Women | Youth & Gen X

McDonald’s and Burger King remain America’s #1 and #2 most preferred fast-food chains, while Subway unseated Wendy’s in 2008 to nab the #3 spot, according to research on the quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry from Experian Simmons.


Other major chains in the top-10 rankings, which show preference trends over five years (2004-2008), are Taco Bell – which reclaimed its #4 spot after dropping to #5 in 2007, Wendy’s, which dropped from #3 to #5, KFC, Pizza Hut, Arby’s and Dairy Queen.

The proliferation of QSR chains in the US also has caused “others” (an aggregation of the many smaller chains) to hold a significant market share as well, the research found.

Niche Chains on the Rise

The rankings also show that three QSR chains – Chipotle, Jamba Juice, and Panera Bread – are relative new comers to the market, yet have become an important force in the QSR market by carving out a specialized niche with their offerings. Chipotle has risen from #57 in 2004 to #26 in 2008, while Jamba Juice has jumped #58 to #38 and Panera Bread has climbed steadily from #29 to #18 in the same time period.


Dramatic Jump in QSR Visits

The average number of visits Americans make to quick service restaurants, which has held steady at approximately seven since 2004, substantially increased to 11 between 2007 and 2008. This, Experian Simmons suggests, may be caused by the current economic crisis.


Midwesterners Frequent QSRs Most

Overall, Midwesterners are most likely to eat at quick service restaurants, the research found.
The following table lists the likelihood of people in each of four US regions (Northeast, Midwest, South and West) to eat at the 13 fast food chains Experian Simmons reviewed. The table on the right illustrates the percentage of each region’s residents that eat at the quick service restaurants. Overall, Midwesterners have the highest percentage of visits to McDonald’s and several other major chains, while Northeasterners score highest with Burger King and Wendy’s.


Westerners frequent Taco Bell and “other” QSRs more than those in other regions. One reason they are more likely to eat at “other fast food restaurants” may be because the Western region has a number of quick service restaurants that aren’ t present ?in other regions, said Experian Simmons.

Additional survey findings:

  • Men (115 Index) are more likely than women (87) to eat alone at a fast food restaurant.
  • Women are more likely to take their children below age 12 to a fast food chain during lunch than any other meal time (126).
  • Hispanic Americans are more likely than non-Hispanic Americans to go to a fast food chain with children during all meal times.
  • Americans ages 18-24 are three times more likely than older Americans to snack at a fast food chain with friends/co-workers.

Other research from the NPD Group findsthat kids and young adults are visiting restaurants less because of the high cost and because of a perceived availability of less healthy choices.? The study also finds that Baby Boomers’ restaurant use is increasing.
About the research: Data analysis is based on results from the Experian Simmons National Consumer Study/National Hispanic Consumer Studies conducted in the Fall of 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, as well as the 2008 Full Year study. An additional report that discusses the impact of the recession on family dining and QSRs also is available from Experian Simmons.

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