Next time you’re out grabbing fast food, stop and look at your fellow diners. If you’re at In-N-Out, are they mostly Asian and Hispanic? At Popeye’s, mostly African-American? At Tim Horton’s, mostly white?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it turns out you’re not just being racist (well not super racist) – you’re just seeing the natural influence of ethnicity on consumer’s taste in fast food.
According to a report compiled by location analytics company Placed, ethnicity is definitively the highest predictor of a diner’s restaurant preference, much more than gender, age or income. Titled “Dining Out in America: The Quick Service Restaurant Landscape,” the report measured over 70 million locations and 70 thousand panelists in order to reach several conclusions about American dining trends. And they’re probably way more stereotypical than you were expecting.
For example, the top five most visited chain restaurants among Hispanic eaters, according to the report? Pollo Tropical, El Pollo Loco, In-N-Out Burger, Wienerschnitzel and Del Taco. Among African Americans? Church’s, Checkers, Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits, Krystal and Rally’s.
Placed also analyzed the influence of geography, sex and age on consumer preferences, and found, among other things, that only those in the Midwest deemed Taco Bell and Chipotle worthy of their top ten; that middle aged women were much more likely to eat at McDonald’s than young adult men; and that the West had the highest amount of QSR diversity in the nation, with 40% of its top chains not appearing among the leaders in any other markets.
What the report isn’t clear on, though, is the causality of the whole thing. A quick glance at Orange County, Calif. alone would reveal a higher concentration of ethnic-centric restaurants in areas where specific ethnicities are better represented. You’re much more likely to find an El Pollo Loco driving through Anaheim (which is over 52% Hispanic) than anywhere in Irvine (which is 40% Asian). And the top 5 restaurants among Asians (Jamba Juice, In-N-Out Burger, Jack In The Box, Starbucks and Panda Express) can all be found on or just across the street from the UC Irvine campus.
So are fast food chains really good at marketing, or do we just like eating at restaurants we live nearer to? Chances are it’s a little bit of both, that over the years chains have tested in and out of areas based on the general taste of the local demographics. If you think about it, it’s kind of nice having someone out there who knows you so well, huh?
H/T Businessweek + PicThx CNN