Ed Heskett
Blog, Restaurant reporting

For some Americans, 2018 is being coined “The Year of Change.” Whether you fear change or embrace it, it’s important to be intentional about the changes in your control. When it’s time to make changes at your QSR, do you lean on customer behavior metrics or demographic data to assist your decision making process?

We ask because these are the two most common sources of information business owners fall back on when they want to make improvements. But what exactly does each one include? And could one be more effective than the other?

Demographics vs. customer behavior

First, let’s draw a clear line between what these terms mean. Demographics are different market segments that are divided by age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, income, family size, etc. On the other hand, customer behavior is data on the decisions that the majority of your customers make, regardless of their demographics.

Now that we know what these terms mean, we still have a big question. Which one matters more to your business?

Demographics and QSRs

Demographics have been used in business for a long time. Everything from marketing, product development, store design, and pricing were decided based on key demographics.

Using demographics at a QSR is no different. Brands build their menus, advertising strategy, and staff training processes around serving a particular demographic. And, it’s proven to be effective for many brands.

For example, Jack in the Box was one of the first major QSR chains to air a commercial entirely in Spanish. They saw an opportune demographic and went after it. A recent poll from Mintel showed that it may have worked. They found that Hispanic and Asian customers were twice as likely to choose Jack in the Box as White or African-American customers were.

The problem is that demographics are most useful for making broad predictions. They can inform strategy, but only at the highest level. If you’re operating fewer than 100 QSRs, then demographics won’t provide as many actionable insights as analyzing actual customer behavior.

Actionable insights from QSR customer behaviors

Everybody eats, no matter what demographic they fall into. Because of this, QSR brands at a corporate level typically focus on two main things:

  1. Creating great menu items that customers will crave and come back for
  2. Providing a spectrum of options from low to high-end that will appeal to a wide audience

As a QSR owner, the more you can align yourself with these goals, the better off you’ll be. So, how can you do it?

Your first step is focusing on the things that the majority of your customers want. QSR brands frequently do this when a limited-time item becomes a hit and they decide to bring it back permanently.

You can imitate this by looking at your revenue numbers. Does your QSR receive far more drive-thru orders than in-store orders? That says your customers love drive-thrus! Regardless of demographics, they’re clearly attracted by the convenience. Now you can put those insights into practice by working to lower drive-thru wait time, updating any old tech, and providing better training to your employees. Shorter lines of cars will encourage more customers to stop and the customer service will make them come back.

Have you noticed that many of your customers like sharing feedback on social media? If so, you might want to take advantage of your social media accounts to promote new items and build brand loyalty. Or do you see an increasing number of customers asking for healthy meal options? This tells you to amp up your salad selection, offer apple slices instead of fries, or provide more grilled versus fried options.

Do a lot of your customers dine in versus using the drive-thru or taking their food to go? This means you’ll want to keep your indoor seating area and restrooms clean and inviting. Excellent customer service is also key to creating a pleasing dine-in experience. These actions will build sales and brand loyalty.

QSR customer behavior insights are more practical since they bridge all demographic groups. They’re also more trustworthy since they’re based on your actual mix of customers and not the average American family.


Make better business decisions in 2018

If you’re looking to make quick wins in 2018 while incrementally improving your customer service, then you need to focus on QSR customer behavior data. This is the first step in finding great actionable insights.

As time goes on, you can also mix in demographic insights. QSR brands and franchise owners will keep collecting more data about their customers as time goes by. With time, the data will improve and can be used to back behavioral decisions for even more effective insights.

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