Fast Food – Who Eats Where?

Fast food is a core part of the US culture. It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s everywhere. McDonalds is the main restaurant of choice with over 18,000 locations in the US alone. Over 42% of Americans visited McDonalds at least once in the last 6 months. There is little diversity in the types of people that go to McDonalds as it appeals to all types. Other fast food chains, however, are not quite as popular – and target different types of people and locations. How do these vary? What type of consumer visits each of these chains? Does geography matter?

While there are a significant amount of fast food chains, this article will focus on just a few of them – the ones that are most visited in the last 6 months (after McDonalds of course). They are: Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Wendy’s, and KFC.

Burger King

With over 12,500 stores worldwide, Burger King is one of the most popular hamburger franchises in the world. Over half of their franchises are located in the US. The majority of these are located in the eastern part of the United States – but franchises are all over. Over 27% of the US population has visited a Burger King in the last 6 months. No one area of the country seems to dominate the visits, though consumers living in the mid-west and east tend to frequent the restaurant as a whole more than those in the west.

One method to classify consumers is through tapestry segmentation. Esri, a geographic information systems company which also does data analysis, developed a tapestry segmentation that classifies US residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.

The tapestry segmentation groups that frequent Burger King the most are Metro City Edge and Dorms to Diplomas. 100% of the census block groups where these segments are dominant have an index of 125 or higher for likely visiting Burger King at least once in the last 6 months. This means that a consumer in these groups is at least 1.25 times more likely than the average American to have visited Burger King at least once in the last 6 months. These are the avid Burger King consumers. Who are they?

Metro City Edge residents live in older suburban neighborhoods of large metropolitan cities, primarily in the Midwest and South. Their median income is $29,269. About 72% of the residents are black. Dorms to Diplomas residents are college students. 90% of these consumers rent. Most of these communities are in urban locations or part of a major campus in a n urban cluster.

Taco Bell

Mexican food is a very popular fast food choice – and Taco Bell is the most popular Mexican fast food chain in the US. The company has over 5,800 restaurants throughout the country which almost 25% of the US population visited in the last 6 months.

The zip code with the highest index for visiting Taco Bell in the last 6 months is 06269, which is Storrs Mansfield, CT.  This is the zip code for the University of Connecticut.  In fact the top 5 zip codes all have colleges located there.  The top 5 zip codes are:

  • 06269 – Storrs Mansfield, CT (University of Connecticut)
  • 13244 – Syracuse, NY (Syracuse University)
  • 27411 – Greensboro, NC (Bennett College)
  • 27710 – Durham, NC (Duke University)
  • 29424 – Charleston, SC (College of Charleston)

Not surprisingly, the most avid visitors of Taco Bell are residents of the tapestry group Dorms to Diplomas.  As mentioned above, these are college students.  All of the census blocks where this segment is dominant have an index for visiting Taco Bell at least once in the last six months is 150 or higher meaning they are 1.5 times more likely than the average American to go to Taco Bell.

Other tapestry segments with residents that are frequent Taco Bell customers are Up and Coming Families and Aspiring Young Families.  Census block groups where these segments are dominant have an index of 125 or higher for visiting Taco Bell at least once in the last 6 months.

Subway

Known for submarine sandwiches, Subway is the largest sandwich restaurant in the United States.  It has approximately 20,000 locations in the US and over 35,000 worldwide.  This is even more than McDonald’s 33,000 worldwide locations.

With Subway being everywhere, this means their customers are everywhere too.  There are 36 zip codes that are tied for the highest index for visiting Subway at least once in the past 6 months.  They have an index of 158.  This means that someone in those zip codes is 1.58 times more likely than the average American to have visited Subway in the past 6 months.  To put this in perspective, about 24.1% of Americans have visited Subway in the past 6 months.

Like Taco Bell, the tapestry segment that visits Subway the most is Dorms to Diplomas.  Made up of primarily college students, this group is looking for quick, inexpensive food on the go.  All of the census block groups where Dorms to Diplomas is the dominant tapestry segment have an index of 125 or higher for having visited Subway at least once in the past 6 months.

Wendy’s

Known for its old-fashioned hamburgers, Wendy’s is the third largest hamburger chain the world with over 6,650 locations.  Its popularity is increasing.  With fewer locations than Burger King, it surpassed Burger King’s sales in 2011.  About 23.6% of Americans visited a Wendy’s in the last six months.

Wendy’s seems to be most popular in the south and east but also in some parts of the west.  The chain is less popular in the Midwest – at least people don’t frequent the restaurant too often there.

Residents from two tapestry groups frequent Wendy’s the most: Family Foundations and Great Expectations.  100% of the census block groups where these two segments are dominant have an index of 125 or higher for visiting Wendy’s at least once in the last 6 months.  This means that residents in these groups are 1.25 times more likely to have visited Wendy’s.

Family Foundations neighborhoods are small urban communities are located in large metro­politan areas, primarily in the South and Midwest. They have a median household income is $38,460.  Young singles who live alone and married-couple families dominate the Great Expectations neighborhoods.  Their median household income is $35,406.

Kentucky Fried Chicken

Founded by Colonel Sanders in 1952, KFC is the most popular fast food chicken restaurant in the United States.  The company has over 15,000 stores in 105 countries worldwide.  In the US, almost 21% of the population visited KFC in the last 6 months.  The restaurant is particularly popular in the south.

Several tapestry segments are composed of residents who frequent KFC.  They are Family Foundations, Heartland Communities, Southern Satellites, City Strivers, Urban Rows, Rural Bypasses, and Rooted Rural.  100% of the census block groups where each of these are dominant have an index of 125 or higher for visiting KFC at least once in the last 6 months.  The majority of these tapestry segments are part of the Urbanization segment Rural II.  Urbanization summary groups share a locale, from the urban canyons of the largest cities to the rural lanes of villages or farms.

Over 80% of the Rural II neighborhoods have an index of 125 or higher for KFC.  Most of this population lives in rural farm areas; the rest live in the country or in small villages.

Each of these restaurants is popular to a different type of segment of the population.  Consumers have preferences based on food selection, taste, price, convenience, and many other factors.  It is important to understand which types of consumers frequent a restaurant to best target new customers and to understand the best opportunity for expansion.

More information about Esri’s data can be found at www.esri.com/data or to learn more about Esri in general, go to www.esri.com.