Fast Food Industry Trends, Stats, and Analysis for 2021

If you’re thinking about zipping through the drive thru right about now, you’re not alone. Research shows that around 83% of Americans eat at quick service or fast food restaurants at least once a week. Yep, more than eight in ten people! While the pandemic may have slowed sales a bit for a time, overall the fast food market has rebounded remarkably and continues to thrive.

Don’t go running for that fast food burger just yet, because we’ve got some interesting stats to show you. What should you expect in this post? First, we’ll walk you through the main fast food industry trends and statistics for 2021. From there, we’ll provide some general analysis. Finally, we’ll give some tips on how to stand out if you own a fast food restaurant. Let’s get started. 

What are some fast food industry statistics?

So you want all the juicy fast food industry statistics. Good news! We’ve gathered some great data for you. Here are some of the most interesting fast food industry statistics for 2021. You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers.

How big is the fast food industry?

According to IBISWorld, the fast food industry in the United States is worth $278.6 billion dollars in 2021. Statista is projecting it to reach more than $281.6 billion by the end of 2021. Globally, the market is $570 billion. Expect fast food industry revenue to continue to grow year over year with more restaurants entering the market. 

Is the fast food industry growing?

Yes, the fast food industry is growing steadily. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic caused a roughly 20% decrease in the fast food industry from 2019 to 2020, it rebounded quickly, with 2021 projected to end with a $3 billion higher market size than 2019. 

What type of industry is fast food?

Fast food falls into the quick service restaurant (QSR) or limited service restaurant industry (LSR) industry. Fast food restaurants and fast casual restaurants are both part of the QSR or LSR segment. This piece of the industry accounts for over 50% of all restaurant sales. Full service restaurants (FSR) make up the other half of the restaurant industry. 

Which fast food brand has the highest brand value?

Per Statista, McDonald’s has the highest brand value. In 2020, they had $40.53 billion in sales revenue, $22 billion more than the chain in second. When it comes to other metrics, like number of units sold, Subway is number one. What about sales per unit? That’s where Chick-Fil-A wins out. Raising Cane’s was third in that category. What sets them apart? Taste, service, and nearly fanatical customer loyalty. That’s what makes these fast food restaurants stand out above the rest. 

What are some of the latest fast food industry trends?

The fast food industry’s trending toward serving the customer more fully. And not just one type of customer, but customers with many different preferences and dietary needs. From vegan and plant-based to keto and low-carb, the rise in specialty diets has forced even fast food restaurants to make adjustments. 

That customer service stretches beyond just diet—it trickles over into the full customer experience. Amazon allows consumers to order almost any product to their door with just a click. UberEats and GrubHub do the same, but with food. Because technology has advanced so rapidly, consumers have come to expect ultimate ease and convenience in everything they do. The fast food restaurants that want to survive are nimbly adapting to these customer demands. Those who aren’t making the changes necessary may not be around much longer.

How would we analyze the fast food industry?

A quick analysis of the fast food industry shows that it’s indeed growing. That said, it’s also becoming more competitive as more restaurants are entering the market. Innovation is driving change and restaurants need to provide fast service and better offerings in order to stay top of mind for customers. As technology has advanced, consumers now expect more. With the rise of DoorDash and slick mobile apps for online ordering, customers want more convenient solutions than ever before. 

What can fast food restaurants do to stay relevant?

Consumers are becoming increasingly choosy. The rise of numerous and varied fast food and quick service restaurant options has given them that luxury. With so many options available and so many restaurants vying for consumer attention, what can fast food restaurants do to stand out? Here are some suggestions.

Serve tasty food with a low cost to produce

Taste matters to consumers. The data shows that taste reigns supreme, even over the nutritional value of the food. To find the holy grail, run a fast food restaurant where the cost of goods sold is very low and the amount of money you make per sale is high. In short, use quality, yet affordable ingredients, provide premium service, and charge a premium price. 

Provide better service

“My pleasure,” says every Chick-Fil-A employee. And it’s paid off. Their impeccable customer service is why they sit atop the list when it comes to consumer satisfaction, followed closely by Chipotle. Their drive thru lines move fast, they give plenty of dipping sauces, and they do it all with a smile. Chick-Fil-A’s incredible service has created no shortage of loyal customers, including 2021 NBA Finals MVP, Giannis Antetekounmpo, who posted a video of himself going through the drive thru for 50 nuggets the morning after he dropped 50 points to claim an NBA championship. That’s the type of brand loyalty and free publicity you can earn you when you focus on delighting customers in every interaction.

Find the right restaurant management software

It’s hard to delight customers when you don’t have efficient processes and systems in place. This starts with the right restaurant management software. If you can’t stay organized, service speed slows down and customers can quickly become disgruntled. The great news is there are solutions—the technology’s out there. And getting it set up is truly the critical first step to having great customer service and running a restaurant people want to be loyal to.

From keeping track of orders to running your back of house operations and tracking employee time, we can help. 

Never stop innovating

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That saying does have some merit. However, just because something isn’t broken doesn’t mean it’s necessarily running at optimum efficiency. There’s always room for improvement in your restaurant. 

Take time to get to know your customers, improve your processes, and uplevel your menu offering. With the right tools in place, it’s much easier. We’re here to help, so request a demo today.

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