Secrets of Fast Food Chains
In a previous life I worked as a designer for a company who's main clients were restaurants and retail chains. You didn't hear any of this from me.
- •It's not called fast food. The industry term is QSR.QSR stands for Quick Service Restaurant. It just sounds better than fast food.
- •The category above QSR is called Fast CasualThis is what Chipotle is. It's more expensive than QSR but you get higher quality food. Panera Bread is also in this category. It was the fastest growing category right after the economy took a turn for the worse in 2007 because people who wanted to eat out but didn't want fast food (sorry QSR) could justify still eating out at a place they deemed better quality for a slightly higher price point.
- •Nearly every QSR chain aspires to be In-N-Out and/or ChipotleThey won't say it in those words but they pretty much hold it as the highest standard in the industry in terms of quality of food and brand loyalty. But they also won't do what they need to do to reach that point (ie. Pay their workers more or have better quality food). Instead they shortcut themselves trying to figure out how to achieve something they'll never get.
- •One of the reasons DelTaco has the weird "burger and fries" side menu is strictly the "veto" vote.Del Taco KNOWS it's the place people go to after the bars and clubs close. But they also know it's usually a place that groups go to. And they want to provide food for everyone in that group so if some dude says "hey let's go grab some Del Taco" and another guys is all "I don't want tacos!" they can respond back "Dude. They have burgers too!" They get maybe 20% of their orders off that menu but they leave it up to combat the veto vote.
- •Urban legend has it that major QSR chain restaurant had a test they called "The Sidewalk Test" when it came to using their logo.It went like this. The chain logo and mascot had to be big enough on all packaging, bags and cups so that if you were walking down the street and you saw a piece of that restaurant's trash (like a bag or a fry container) lying on the sidewalk, you could recognize and see the logo and know where it came from. That's the sidewalk test.
- •Wendy's chili is made of leftover burger patties.It's actually a great way to reduce food waste but just be aware that the chili is older meat.
- •Subway isn't all that healthier for you.You THINK it is. But calorie for calorie your probably ingesting just as much as you would at McDonald's. But they have a PERCEPTION of being healthier, and they make the food in front of you so you just think it's better for you.
- •"Fast Food Lovers" is an actual target audience.I know, it should probably be called "QSR lovers" but whatever. When designing for clients you always want to know the target audience. Ours was the fast food lover. This person went to fast food or fast casual establishments 50 times a month. Yes FIFTY times. Granted this includes going to places like Starbucks, Chipotle and Subway but this demo was actually larger than you think.
- •20% of all meals are eaten in cars.This includes breakfast and stopping to get a coffee on the go. But yeah 20%. Burger King was really smart to make their fries containers car cup size.
- •1 in 4 people in the US will eat at a QSR or Fast Casual establishment today.That's 25% of the United States. QSR/Fast Casual is a HUGE market. And every single chain is fighting to get a piece of that. They formulate their food not on health or quality, but in "craveability" which means a combination of fat, salt and flavor that will trigger a desire to have more of it. This is actual the formula for all packaged foods.
- •All that said, the best way to get fresh french fries is to just order them unsalted. Then salt then yourself.I actually learned that trick from my best friend in high school not my work. But it's worth repeating.