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Placed-Top-10-QSRs-in-April-May2013A lot has changed in the past 5-10 years, but the endurance of McDonald’s as an American fast food icon seems to have stayed firm. According to a new study [download page] from Placed, McDonald’s was easily the most popular fast food chain in April of this year, with slightly more than half of Americans visiting one of its restaurants during the month. Back in 2008, McDonald’s was rated Americans’ favorite quick service restaurant (QSR), and that was for the 5th-year running. In this latest study, Placed finds Subway clearly in the second spot, visited by about 4 in 10 Americans during the month, followed by Starbucks (25%), Burger King (24.7%), and Wendy’s (23.8%). A demographic analysis shows large discrepancies in preferences by ethnicity.

Looking first at Asians, the study demonstrates that Jamba Juice scores highest with an index of 390, meaning that Asians are almost 4 times as likely as the average consumer to visit a Jamba Juice. In-N-Out Burger (292) also indexes strongly among Asians, as it does with Hispanics (296). Hispanics were more than 4 times as likely to visit Pollo Tropical (410) as the average consumer, while also demonstrating an affinity for El Pollo Loco (299). Among African-Americans, Church’s indexed highest (311), with Checkers (256) and Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits (236) following. Finally, Caucasians were 36% more likely than the average consumer to visit Taco Johns, and 32% more likely to visit Culver’s.

The study reveals that Hispanics were 16% less likely than the average consumer to visit Wendy’s in April, meaning that the chain’s new Hispanic-focused ad campaign faces an uphill battle. Wendy’s will also face a challenge in overtaking McDonald’s, which the study notes is the largest food category spender on Hispanic marketing. Hispanics showed a greater preference for McDonald’s (104) than Burger King (101), Wendy’s and Taco Bell (100).

Other findings regarding the Big 4 brands (McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger Kind, and Taco Bell) include:

  • Taco Bell’s visitors skewing younger than those for the other brands;
  • Wendy’s significantly under-indexing among 18-24-year-olds (81);
  • Each of the brands under-indexing among Asians and among those with less than $25,000 in income; and
  • Females slightly over-indexing for McDonald’s and Wendy’s, with the opposite true for Burger King and Taco Bell.

On a regional level, McDonald’s counted as the top QSR across each region, while Dunkin’ Donuts jumped into the second ranking in the Northeast and Starbucks took that ranking in the West. Burger King outranked Wendy’s in each region except for the South, while Taco Bell and Chipotle both made the top 10 in the Midwest, the only region to include 2 Mexican-style chains. 4 of the top 10 chains in the West did not make the top 10 list in other regions (Jack in the Box, Panda Express, Carl’s Jr., and Jamba Juice.)

Separately, a new study [pdf] from Verve Mobile indicates that 70% of its QSR and casual dining campaigns leverage location-based targeting strategy, with those campaigns predominantly falling into the geo-aware category (location targeted to the desired market with the user’s distance-to-nearest-location pulled into a dynamic banner). About 55% of location-targeted campaigns utilized a geo-aware strategy, while 28% used geo-fencing (targeted only to users within a specific radius of advertiser restaurant locations) and 17% used audience targeting (to user segments built on location data).

The researchers reveal that campaigns that leveraged location data had an average click-through rate twice as high as those that didn’t (1.21% vs. 0.61%).

About the Data: The Placed Insights data is from insights gleaned from more than 70 million locations a day across more than 70,000 US panelists who have opted-in to share their location. This data is normalized using industry best practices combined with proprietary models to reflect the behaviors of the U.S. population.

Verve’s data is based on more than 100 mobile campaigns in the QSR/Casual Dining category that were delivered between January 2012 and March 2013 by Verve.

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