Norman Morris, industry communications director from the research firm said like any other industry, quick service restaurants have changed over the years, adapting to evolving consumer preferences and needs.
“From Hungry Jacks introducing a vege burger to their menu more than two decades ago, to the appearance of gourmet pizza chains like Crust and Pizza Capers, this is not an industry that is resistant to change,” Morris said.
“But as Australia’s ‘foodie’ culture grows—evidenced in our changing cuisine preferences towards vegetarianism for example—the fast food industry is obviously going to be affected. And the much-reported trend among ‘millennials’ (a group which spans approximately the first half of Generation Z and the second half of Gen Y) for hipster culinary experiences cannot be ignored.”
According to Morris, McDonald’s is actively addressing this issue, opening an “almost unbranded cafe” in Sydney to try out potential hipster-friendly menu items before rolling them out in their stores.
“While Roy Morgan data shows that the proportion of Australians (of all generations) who visit hamburger, pizza and hot chicken quick service restaurants is mainly declining, Domino’s Pizza seems to be bucking this trend,” he said. “As we reported recently, Domino’s clever use of technology at all stages of the ordering, delivery, pick-up and purchasing process has won it many new fans in recent years.”
According to Roy Morgan, between 2012 and 2016, the proportion of Australians visiting McDonalds at least once in an average four weeks has declined from 31.2 per cent to 29.4 per cent. While this is due partly to the shrinking proportions of Generations Y (from 39.4 per cent to 35.3 per cent) and Z (from 40.3 per cent to 36.1 per cent) eating at or taking away from the hamburger giant, Generation X and Baby Boomers also appear to be losing interest.
McDonalds’ smaller rival Hungry Jacks remained steady, with the total proportion of Aussies visiting it shifting by an almost negligible fraction (from 13.1 per cent to 12.7 per cent). While visitation by Gen X and Baby Boomers slipped incrementally, Generation Y showed a more pronounced decline (from 19.2 per cent to 16.5 per cent). Gen Z customers, on the other hand, picked up (from 15.7 per cent to 16.8 per cent).
Data shows the younger generations are seeking out less mainstream fast-food options, but it does not mean they are seeking more niche and gourmet-oriented fast food chains. According to the study conducted by Roy Morgan, burger chain, Grill’d, has seen a slight year-on-year increase among Generation X visitors, but a noticeable drop among Gen Y (from 8.0 per cent to 5.4 per cent), and little change among Gen Z (8.3 per cent to 8.1 per cent).
The data indicates the proportion of Generation Y who pay at least one visit to ‘other’ hamburger outlets in an average four weeks has grown from 4.7 per cent to 6.4 per cent, suggesting they could be frequenting smaller, hipsterised burger chains (alternatively, they could be going to no-frills ‘mom-and-pop’-style outlets).
Between 2012 and 2016, the proportion of Aussies visiting the chain at least once in an average four weeks slipped slightly, from 20.4 per cent to 19.3 per cent. Like McDonalds, KFC’s popularity is strongest with Gens Y (23.9 per cent) and Z (26.2 per cent). There has been a decrease, though, among Generation Y visitors to KFC since 2012, Gen Z are more likely to go there now than they were four years ago.
Despite its mainstream status, Domino’s continues to draw the younger generations, with Gen Y up from 13.6 per cent to 15.3 per cent, and Gen Z up from 14.2 per cent to 18.5 per cent, a growth also seen across other generations.
Meanwhile, Crust Pizza and Pizza Capers, both much smaller and known for focusing on a much more ‘foodie-oriented’ product, have gained Generation Z customers over the past four years. The latter has also experienced a boost in Gen Y visitation, but at this stage, the figures pose no threat to the big guys.