Fast food restaurants are an increasingly popular option for affluent customers looking for value meals
The recession has been difficult for most Americans to swallow, and even a growing number of wealthy Americans have faced a question to make the tougher economic times easier to digest: “Would you like fries with that?”
According to an American Express Business Insights study, quick service restaurants, which include fast food establishments or any restaurant where the customer orders and pays for their food at a counter before they eat, saw a bigger rise in spending by “ultra-affluent” customers than any other restaurant category in 2010. In the fourth quarter of 2010, the study finds, spending on fast foot increased 4% among American Express’ most affluent customers, while spending on casual dining decreased by 4%. There was a bigger jump of 24% in the second quarter of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.
“Over the last three years, quick service restaurants have performed a little better than the table service segment because consumers were cutting back on spending,” offered Annika Stennson, director of media relations with the National Restaurant Association. “They’re known for their affordability, and during these tough economic times, consumers overall have definitely become more value conscious.” This year, the quick service segment is projected to post sales growth at 3.3%, compared with 3.1% for table service restaurants. Last year, quick service sales grew 3.0% while table service grew at 1.2%.
Another reason why fast food restaurants may be more palatable to wealthy consumers is that they have evolved from the artery-clogging, pound-padding burgers-and-fries joints of decades past to appeal to healthier and more refined tastes. Many, Stennson said, “have expanded their menus to include options that bring a sense of added value to the dining experience, such as local fresh produce, premium cuts of meat and exotic ingredients, and tend to appeal to foodies.”
But rich or not, fast food restaurants are putting out the welcome mat for all. Said McDonald’s spokesperson Lizzie Roscoe, “We take pride in the fact that McDonald’s appeals to people at every socioeconomic level – millionaires and dollarmenunaires!”