Quick-Service Restaurant Marketing: Chains are Finding Ways to Drive Visits in a Challenging Economy

Over the past year, Fast-Casual & Quick-Service Restaurant (QSR) chains have consistently adapted their restaurant marketing strategies and out-performed the Full-Service Dining segment, achieving positive year-over-year (YoY) visit growth every quarter since 2023.1

Fast service is a key factor separating QSR chains—known as “fast food”—from the rest of the dining industry, and it is one way QSR restaurants can differentiate themselves from competitors.

Over the past four years, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, and Wendy’s locations have seen steady increases in the share of visits lasting less than 10 minutes.1

Source: Placer.ai

The data also suggests that investment in speed of service can increase overall visitation to QSR restaurants.

Data from a McDonald’s location in the Dallas, Texas, area supports the idea that fast fulfillment of orders can drive QSR visits. A to-go-only McDonald’s opened in late 2022 outside of Dallas and dedicated a lane to mobile order fulfillment via a conveyor belt. During Q1 2024, this venue not only had a larger share of short visits compared to the other McDonald’s locations in the region, but also more visits than the average overall for McDonald’s stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth CBSA.1

Customers are motivated at the opportunity to get in and out quickly, making fast order fulfillment a powerful tool to drive QSR visits.

Source: Placer.ai

The success of fast-service options led full-service chain Applebee’s to debut a new format in Deer Park, N.Y., with pick-up lockers for digital orders, limited dine-in availability and no table service. This location saw 21% of visits between noon and 2 pm during Q1 2024, in contrast to the average of less than 10% for other New York/New Jersey locations during the same hours. The new venue also drew a much larger share of weekday visits than other nearby restaurants, an indication that full-service chains could grow their visit share during lunch hours and weekdays by offering faster takeaway options. 1

Eat More Chicken?

QSR and Fast Casual chains with chicken-based menus steadily have increased their share of visits between 2019 and 2023. In Q1 2024, 15.3% of Fast Casual & QSR visits were to a chicken restaurant concept, compared to just 13.4% in Q1 2019.1

Both Chick-fil-A, the nation’s predominant chicken chain, and Raising Cane’s, a rapidly expanding player in the fast-food chicken space, are receiving significantly more visits per venue than their Fast Casual & QSR peers: In Q1 2024, Raising Cane’s and Chick-fil-A restaurants saw an average of 153.0% and 237.7% more visits per venue, respectively, compared to the combined Fast Casual & QSR industries average. 1

Holidays and Special Promotions

QSR and Fast-Casual chains have been successful at driving seasonal visits with limited-time offers and holiday promotions.

On February 1st, Arby’s launched a promotion offering two sandwiches for $6. During Lent, which was observed February 14th through March 28th, the promotional offering was updated to two of the three options being fish. Arby’s saw distinct elevation in foot traffic during that period, particularly on Fridays when observers are most likely to consume fish.1

In 2024, Valentine’s Day fell on a Wednesday, and White Castle’s annual reservation-only sit-down event drove an 11.8% visit increase compared to the average Wednesday in Q1 2024 and a 3.9% visit increase compared to the overall Q1 2024 daily average. 1

Engage Restaurant Customers with Integrated Media

In the rural markets Mspark serves, 64% of media influence on dining-out purchases comes from print and digital channels combined.2

Multi-channel restaurant marketing campaigns ensure consistent delivery of your message across media channels. Give your restaurant an edge over the competition with an integrated Shared Mail + CTV Broad solution.

Expand Awareness with CTV Broad

CTV Broad places your :15 or :30 second television commercial in front of a broad audience of your most likely consumers. Awareness is generated prior to and throughout the life of your shared mail campaign, lifting response rates.

  • CTV Broad cost-effectively complements your linear TV buys.
  • Uses a Broad Targeting Approach (age, gender, income)
  • Campaigns optimized to deliver impressions in ZIP codes skewed toward: Select Demographics and CTV Users

Activate Your Best Consumers with Shared Mail

Consumers are more carefully planning their purchases and looking for value in every transaction. Shared Mail delivers value in a format that consumers of all generations appreciate and respond to when making restaurant purchases.

  • Nearly 70% of consumers surveyed tried a new restaurant after receiving marketing mail.3
  • 74% of marketers say direct mail delivers the highest response, conversion rate, and ROI of any channel used.4

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Sources: The QSR Dining Advantage, go.placer.ai, May 20241; Prosper Insights & Analytics 20232; USPS Mail Moments 20233; Porch/LOB 20234