How Fast Food is Keeping Up with College Students

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

College students are changing the way fast food industries introduce new food products. According to an article by Y Pulse, they are changing their strategy to stay relevant with the trendy young consumer. Fast food is an industry that doesn’t get a lot of love from college students, as they are in search of healthier and more natural options like Chipotle, Shake Shack and Five Guys. Although college students are interested in eating healthier, they still have cravings for fast food. Meanwhile, the big brands behind fast food are staying relevant to this market while continuing to serve all generations from all parts of the world. Here are some of the ways fast food moguls are staying relevant to college students:

McDonalds goes native

Ripple Effect

McDonald’s was cited as the top favorite fast food restaurant in December for college students, according to YPulse. Paul Matson, McDonald’s Director of Social Engagement said that the chain’s daily number of transactions in the US is 27 million across 14,000 locations. So for every visit to Shake Shack that is posted on social media, dozens of students are visiting McDonald’s to get their fast food fix. Because students aren’t willing to share going to McDonald’s as much as they would if they were going to Shake Shack, the brand relationship they have isn’t worth bragging about. The solution McDonald’s created was a sponsored content series called The Ripple Effect – creating relevant food trend articles and YouTube videos that position the brand positively as a thought leader.

Subway goes mobile


Subway proudly utilized its “fresh” promise from the beginning. Sandwiches can be customized from scratch right before the customer’s eyes, and now the brand is keeping up with the mobile-everywhere trend. A new mobile app will keep Subway connected with its customers and reduces time spent waiting online for a customized sandwich. The brand is also utilizing mobile technology to drive repeat visits with a mobile loyalty program that can customize sandwiches based on the customer’s mood and preferences. College students often don’t know what they want for lunch, and they use their smartphones to look up different food options every day.

Taco Bell goes global

Taco Bell’s goal is to first understand young consumers before making them understand their company. They mirror college students’ desires to break out of the fast food typical offerings to provide fresh and exciting products – like the breakfast waffle taco. As a global brand, the company localizes everything from a country-to-country basis – architecture, spice levels and branding are just a few aspects. College students traveling with families or studying abroad are curious about what their favorite brands look like while traveling.

Ready to

Download our back-to-school spending survey