Ypulse recently examined the trends of fast-food eating habits and college students. Throughout the last few years, fast-food chains have begun to shift to increase appeal among younger consumers. However, with the onset of COVID-19, this year these chains have made huge strides in their efforts to cater to the younger generation. In 2019, it was reported that roughly 61% of young people ate from fast food restaurants on a monthly basis. This September, this percentage jumped up to 70%. With the combination of restaurant restrictions and restrictions on college campus dining halls, fast food becomes the most painless and the most convenient option.
Fast-food chains have evolved to become more attractive to younger consumers and more COVID friendly through their integration of fast-track technology and their drive thru innovations. Back in 2018, nearly 80% of young consumers indicated that they like using kiosks and tablets to order their food. This is likely attributed to their upbringing with handheld technology. Burger King, Chipotle, and Domino’s have since launched new services such as contactless transactions, and digital only restaurants. They increased mobile orders, curbside pickup, and drive through ordering. These upgrades profit off of their technological appeal, their ease and accessibility, and their consideration of public health.
New Menu Options
Other developments implemented to entice a younger market include adopting more plant-based protein options, releasing branded merchandise, and collaborating with celebrities. The introduction of plant-based options is a logical and alluring opportunity. This is due to health concerns about meat, meat processing plant closures, and meat rationing in supermarkets on top of the consumer preference for alternative meat options. McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have both released their own versions including the McPlant and a “faux sausage blend”, respectively. Fast food chains have also begun releasing merchandise such as shoes, clothes, lunchboxes, bedding, bikes, and more. Capitalizing on celebrities idolized by the younger generation such as Charli D’amelio and Travis Scott is also on the rise. After Dunkin debuted its new drink, “The Charli”, app downloads increased by a whopping 57%. McDonald’s also found massive success in September after selling out of their Travis Scott combo meals.
Carrying out new strategies during such an unpredictable year obviously came with many risks. But it appears that many chains have found success in their decisions. Fast-Food options need to evolve when marketing to college students. As these chains change and evolve to reach their desired market, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.