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50+ Fast Food Facts + Trends You Should Know About

The fast food industry is going through some major changes. From plant-based burgers to improved drive-thrus, curbside pickups, healthier choices for kids, and eco-friendly packaging, fast food chains are making an effort to adapt to new trends and ensure customers keep coming back for more.

However, factors like advanced technology, health-conscious consumers, and the impact of the global pandemic are causing shifts in consumer behavior and industry practices that are hard to predict.

To keep you in the loop, we've gathered 50+ statistics and trends that cover everything you need to know about the current state of the fast food industry and how it's likely to evolve in the near future.

The Fast Food Industry in 2024

The fast food industry continues to grow despite many of us making the swap to healthier alternatives than you would generally find at fast food chains. The industry employs millions of people worldwide and is a major contributor to the global economy.

1. The Fast Food Industry Generates Billions in Revenue

The fast food industry is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to generating revenue. We're talking about a lot of money here.

On a global scale, the fast food industry rakes in an astonishing $885 billion in revenue, and this number continues to climb each year. To put things into perspective, that's more than 10 times the revenue Facebook made in 2020.

Despite our growing focus on health and the increasing popularity of healthier options, the fast food market shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, by the end of 2027, experts predict that the industry will be worth a staggering $931.7 billion, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.6%. It's safe to say that fast food is here to stay, and its financial success is set to keep skyrocketing.

2. Fast Food Is a Huge Part of the Global Economy 

Not only does the fast food industry bring in billions in revenue each year, but it’s also a huge contributor to the global economy, especially in terms of employment.

There are over 897,600 fast food chains around the world, employing more than 14 million people. And new fast food jobs are opening every year. Since 2010, employment in the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector in the US has grown by 35%. 

3. The US Has More Fast Food Chains Than Anywhere Else

When it comes to fast food chains, the United States is the global leader. In fact, the US accounts for a whopping 32% of the entire global fast food market.

As of 2023, there are a staggering 204,555 fast food restaurants throughout the United States. This reflects a notable increase of 3.49% since 2021. To put it into perspective, compared to a decade ago, we've witnessed the emergence of nearly 24,000 new fast food franchises.

In terms of revenue, US fast food chains generated approximately $239 billion in 2020 and provided employment opportunities for over 4 million people. Although this figure is slightly lower than the $273 billion generated in 2019, this is likely a result of the impact of the pandemic and the temporary closures of fast food establishments. Nonetheless, when compared to previous years, the overall profit remains significantly higher. In fact, over the past decade, revenue has soared by almost $90 million, indicating substantial growth in the industry.

4. McDonald’s Holds the Most Brand Value Globally

McDonald’s holds the most brand value of all fast food chain restaurants, with an estimated value of $1.5 billion in 2021. That’s an increase of 19.8% from 2020.

Starbucks and KFC came in second and third place, though their value combined was not even close to what McDonald’s is. Starbucks held a brand value of $60.2 billion in 2021, while KFC’s value was approximately $19 billion. 

Perhaps not coincidentally, McDonald’s is also the fast food chain that spends the most money on ads. In the US in 2020, McDonald’s spent $489 million on ads, yet Starbucks spent over six times less, with $77 million invested into advertising. 

5. ...But Other Popular Fast Food Chains Hold More Franchises

Although McDonald’s holds more brand value than any other fast food chain, it doesn’t have the most restaurants.

That honor goes to Subway, which totaled around 22,000 franchises across the US, as of 2020. McDonald’s only has just over 13,000 units, yet generates the most profit.

Subway actually comes in 8th place in terms of sales across leading fast food chains. In 2020, Subway brought in $8.32 million, while McDonald’s saw over $40 million in revenue in the US. 

6. The UK’s Favorite Fast Food Chains

In the UK, consumers have their own preferences for fast food.

Although McDonald’s still made it into the top 5, UK consumers prefer Greggs, with 71% of respondents stating they had had a positive experience with this pastry diner.

Around 57% of people said the same of McDonald’s, while both Domino’s and Pizza Hut overtook McDonald’s slightly, with 58% each. While Greggs makes less profit (around £1.23 billion total sales revenue in 2021) and has less share of the market than McDonald’s, it’s clearly doing more to increase and maintain the loyalty of its customers. 

7. Fast Food Prices Are Increasing Drastically

Prices in QSRs across the US have steadily increased over the years, and 2020 and 2021 were no different. Actually, prices continued to grow monthly, even though overall QSR sales fell during and just after COVID. In the US, sales from fast food chains fell from $273 billion in 2019 to $243 billion in 2020, but this didn’t stop the prices of food items from increasing.

By January 2021, QSR menu prices had grown around 6.2% higher over the course of the previous year. By the end of 2021, menu prices of fast food chains were 7.1% higher than in 2020.

If these trends continue, we could be paying more for our favorite burger and fries than we first thought. 

8. Fast Food Employment Levels Have Dipped

Until 2020, the fast food sector experienced steady growth in employment, boasting a workforce of approximately 4 million people across the United States. Unfortunately, the arrival of the pandemic dealt a severe blow to employment levels, meaning that many fast food restaurants reduced their staff or even shut down completely.

Compared to the period before the pandemic, a significant portion of US fast food chains, about 41%, have made workforce reductions ranging from 1% to 20%. Additionally, 29% of these chains have experienced a reduction of over 20% in their employee count.

While we may see a rebound in employment as the global economy recovers, the emergence of new fast food trends resulting from the pandemic, such as the integration of AI and the upgrading of drive-thrus, is leading many fast food chains to reconsider their operational strategies. Consequently, this could lead to decreased reliance on human employees.

9. Fast Food Employees See Low Wages

Fast food companies want to keep costs low. Unfortunately, that usually comes at the expense of employee wages.

The median hourly wage of a fast food worker in the US is $11.47. However, 25% of employees in the fast food sector earn less than $9.52 an hour, which is just $2.27 higher than the US minimum wage.

The reality for fast food workers is that they’re more likely to live close to the poverty line. Around 52% of fast food workers in the US are enrolled in a public program offering financial support, compared to 25% of the entire US workforce. 

Global Fast Food Habits

While every one of us probably loves a bit of fast food, some of us visit fast food franchises more often than others. How we consume fast food is affected by location, age, and even the time of day.

10. Majority of Americans Eat Fast Food Every Week 

In 2018, 31.57% of American adults claimed they ate fast food 1-3 times a week, which was a reduction from 37.58% in 2016.

A further 15.8% of adults opted for fast food meals 4-6 times a week, which means some Americans are consuming fast food almost daily. Interestingly, this figure has increased since 2016, when just 10.55% of US adults ate fast food for 4-6 of their weekly meals.

11. UK Consumption of Fast Food

Brits are some of the biggest fast food eaters in the world. And current trends highlight just how much fast food they really eat.

Although ready meals (AKA TV dinners) are more popular than fast food in the UK, people still consume around 22 million fast food meals weekly. Young adults in the UK are 7 times more likely to eat fast food than other age groups.

12. Age Affects Fast Food Consumption

Age plays a significant role when it comes to fast food consumption. Generally, as we get older, our intake of fast food decreases.

According to recent trends observed in the UK, when individuals were asked about their frequency of visits to QSRs, 16% of respondents aged 18-24 reported consuming fast food at least once a week, which is the highest percentage among all age groups. Additionally, 38% of this age group stated that they eat fast food a few times every month.

On the other hand, individuals aged 35 and above were more likely to state a lower consumption of fast food. The majority within this age range indicated that they consume fast food less frequently than once a month. Furthermore, among those aged 65 and above, approximately 32% mentioned that they never eat at fast food chains.

These findings highlight the correlation between age and fast food consumption, with younger individuals choosing to eat fast food compared to older age groups.

13. Most People in the US Eat Fast Food for Lunch

In the US, fast food lunches are common, with 44.7% of people saying this is their ideal time of the day to eat fast food. Dinner is a very close second, only 2% lower at 42%.

People still eat fast food for breakfast and as snacks, too. Around 22% of those asked said they opt for fast food for breakfast, and 22% eat it as a snack. Interestingly, money spent on fast food for breakfast and snacks increased by 5% between 2015 and 2020, with fast food chains expanding their menus to cater to these meals.

14. Men Eat More Fast Food

Men eat more fast food than women, but only slightly. On any given day, 38% of men in the US visit a fast food restaurant, compared to 35% of women.

Their prefered fast food meals differ, too. While men prefer to eat fast food for lunch, women tend to opt for fast food as a snack rather than a full meal.

15. Children Favor McDonald’s Over Other Chains

Children all over the world love fast food, but most favor one brand over others.

80% of children in the US say McDonald’s is their fast food place of choice. And indeed, 80% of the fast food US kids eat is from McDonald’s.

Fast food consumption is high among children, and it’s increasing. Between 2009-2010, children aged 2-9 in the US gained under 11% of their daily calories from fast food. Between 2015-2018, this figure was higher, at around 14%.

16. More Ads Means More Consumption

Over half of food-related ads in the US are for fast food. Approximately 52% of all food ads in the US are geared toward fast food, with many children viewing them on a daily basis.

Children are actually exposed to around 3-5 fast food ads per day in the US, and the link between ads and fast food consumption is evident. Children who see fast food ads are 30% more likely to eat the advertised food. 

17. Consumer Spending on Fast Food Reaches Billions Each Year

Consumer spending in the fast food industry has slightly decreased in recent years, though the pandemic is likely to blame for this decline. In 2018, consumer spending topped $299 billion in the US, but in 2020, this dropped to $272 billion.

Still, the average American spends $1,200 each year on fast food. Over a lifetime, that equates to over $70,000.

18. Most People Eat Fast Food for Convenience

We tend to choose fast food for convenience rather than because of the quality or taste of the meal.

In a 2020 survey in the US, over 71% of people said they choose fast food because it’s convenient, with only 37.6% opting for fast food for taste. A further 33% said they choose fast food because it cost less than some other options. 

But with popular food delivery services like Blue Apron and Factor offering low-calorie meal kits and prepared meals delivered straight to your door, fast food restaurants are finding themselves with some unexpected competition.

Fast Food Trends Around the World

Fast food has evolved over the last few decades, with new and expanded menus, more emphasis on food sourcing, and changes in the ways fast food is delivered to customers.

19. Fast Food Portion Sizes Have Grown

Since the 1980s, the portion sizes of fast food have been gradually increasing. And despite many chains now offering better-for-you options, calorie counts have still risen considerably.

In the 1980s, the average fast food entrée in the US weighed 162g and contained around 320 calories. But 30 years later in 2016, entrées weighed just over 200g and contained nearly 100 more calories.

Desserts and sides have also steadily increased in total calories. Sides typically have 40 more calories, while desserts have almost doubled in size and contain 70+ more calories. 

20. Chains Are Trying to Drop Calories

With the rising concerns about portion sizes and the global issue of obesity, fast food chains are facing increasing pressure to reduce the calorie content of their menu offerings.

A study conducted in the United States revealed that the average calorie count of fast food items in 2013 was 12% lower compared to the previous year, indicating some progress. Recognizing the need for change, McDonald's took the initiative and made changes such as removing high fructose corn syrup from their burger buns and reducing the use of artificial preservatives. However, even after a decade, there is still more work to be done to further address this issue.

In the United Kingdom, fast food chains, along with cafes and restaurants, have received calls to lower the calorie content of their food items by at least 20% by 2024 as part of a collective effort to tackle the ongoing obesity crisis.

These efforts highlight the ongoing commitment to promoting healthier options within the fast food industry, as reducing calorie intake can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and combat the challenges associated with obesity. 

21. Most People Believe Fast Food Is Unhealthy

Long-standing consumer perceptions are tough to change, even with major fast food chains lowering the caloric content of their menu items.

The majority of fast food eaters believe it’s unhealthy, with 76% of people in the US saying junk food is bad for your health. Only 20% of respondents said they thought fast food was somewhat good for your health. 

22. Consumers Want Healthier Fast Food Options

Nowadays, the majority of us are looking for healthier alternatives when it comes to fast food choices. According to a survey conducted in the United States, 39% of respondents said that the availability of healthy options on fast food menus was a significant factor in their decision to eat at these establishments.

This growing demand for healthier choices has prompted the fast food industry to adapt and expand its menus accordingly, particularly when it comes to catering to children. By 2015, approximately 30% of fast food chains in the US had begun offering healthier alternatives on their kids' menus, including options like fruits and vegetables.

However, research conducted in the US revealed that simply providing healthier options for children does not guarantee that they will be chosen and consumed. The findings from a 2018 report demonstrated that only 50% of parents opted for a healthier side dish for their children, and just 56% chose a lighter drink option.

These findings indicate that although there is an increasing emphasis on providing healthier choices in fast food establishments, there is still a gap between availability and consumer behavior when it comes to selecting these options, especially among parents and their children. Efforts to encourage healthier food choices for individuals of all ages continue to be essential in promoting overall well-being.

23. Burgers Orders Are Surging

Across the US in the first quarter of 2021, fast food orders surged by around 33%. And burgers were one of the most popular choices.

Between January and April 2021, there was a 54.4% increase in visits to burger chains. Burgers come in 4th on the list of the most frequently ordered food items, with around 40.8% of people ordering them. Fries and onion rings still topped the list, accounting for 55.3% of orders.

24. The Demand for Mexican Food Is Also High

Burgers aren’t the only food item seeing an increase in consumer demand.

In the first quarter of 2021 in the US, 32.1% more people visited Mexican fast food restaurants than in the previous year. Clearly, consumers want more variety from fast food chain menus — long gone are the days of a plain burger and fries.

Fried chicken also saw a huge increase in sales, with 29.5% more visits to chains selling it.

25. Major Chains Are Offering Plant-based Alternatives

You don’t have to go far to hear the word “vegan” nowadays. More and more of us are moving toward a plant-based lifestyle, or simply cutting down on our meat consumption. 

McDonald’s is one of the leaders in this category with the introduction of its McPlant burger. Many more competitors are also likely to branch out their vegan menus. Also taking up this trend are other, possibly even healthier, vegan delivery services.

Globally, the plant-based meat value is worth an estimated $17.2 billion as of 2024, and this is expected to grow year over year. By 2027, it’s forecasted that the plant-based market will double to $35.5 billion. One thing is for sure — veganism is here to stay.

26. Sustainably Sourced Meat Is a Consumer Requirement

More of us are paying attention not only to the nutritional value and contents of our food, but also to where it comes from.

In the US, 41% of people said they were “very interested” in locally sourced meat and poultry. In another worldwide survey, between 15-22% of people said that sustainably sourced meat is more appealing than a low price, making it more important than ever that fast food chains support sustainable farming practices.

Sustainably sourced meat usually costs more, but consumers are generally willing to pay those higher prices. A large share of respondents in a UK survey stated they would pay extra for free-range or enhanced-welfare meat.

In particular, 20% of people aged between 25-34 said they “strongly agreed” with paying more for sustainably sourced meats. This was the highest of all age categories.

27. Some Countries Are Craving More Food Types

Fast food variety is something most consumers want, And there’s already an assortment of different cuisines that are tickling the taste buds of our global population.

When European consumers were asked what they’d like to see more of, Chinese, American, Mexican, Indian, Japanese, and Greek were among the most popular choices. 

Healthy food was stated by consumers in the United Kingdom (23%) and Spain (34%), highlighting that we’re becoming ever more health conscious and in search of lighter, more nutritious options.

28. Fast Food Chains Are Under Pressure to Improve

Consumers are wanting more from their favorite fast food chains, and not just in regard to the food on offer.

In a 2020 US survey, the main areas where people wanted to see an improvement were in terms of healthy ingredients and food items. Over 64% of people were also hoping for lower-calorie options.

But consumers also want fast food chains to improve in other areas — and labor costs are a priority. Over 50% of respondents wanted to see fairer wages for fast food restaurant workers, highlighting the pressure to increase hourly rates.

Reducing waste was also a key concern, with 45.5% of respondents wanting fast food chains to focus their attention on sustainability and reducing the impact of fast food waste on the environment.

29. More Customers Have Been Opting for Drive-Thrus & Curbside Pickups

The pandemic stopped people all over the world from visiting their favorite fast food restaurants. Although fewer of us are eating at fast food restaurants, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re eating less of it — we’re just changing where we’re eating it.

Drive-thrus and curbside pickups were already popular pre-pandemic, but COVID-19 forced the growth of these dining options. During the peak of COVID-19 in the US, 88.5% of people opted for drive-thru or curbside pickup options to get their fast food fix.

Many fast food chains are expanding their drive-thrus to make way for the future. Taco Bell in Brooklyn Park has already upgraded its drive-thru to include four lanes rather than two. And Starbucks, one of the most valued fast food brands, said curbside pickup is a key factor in its post-pandemic recovery plan.

30. Digital Deliveries Are Becoming More Popular

The pandemic forced just about everyone to order their favorite fast food online.

Had there been no pandemic, the penetration of online food delivery in the US market was estimated to be 12% in 2024. However, thanks to COVID-19, that figure is now forecasted to be 16%. And it’s expected to grow year after year.

By 2025, online food deliveries are predicted to take up 21% of the US market. Had there been no pandemic, the projected penetration was only 15% by 2025.

COVID-19 has certainly created a shift in how we’re buying and eating fast food. By 2024, 69.9 million US consumers are expected to use food e-delivery services.

There are already plenty of affordable and healthy online delivery services claiming space in the food industry, putting fast food chains under pressure to innovate fast. 

31. The eDelivery Key Players Are Busier Than Ever

The number of smartphone delivery app users in the US in 2023 is projected to hit 53.9%, up from 44.1% in 2021. With more of us ordering online, eDelivery companies will have to prepare.

In fact, revenue in the QSR eDelivery market reached an impressive $25.7 billion in 2018. By the end of 2024, this figure is forecasted to rise by a third, to $33.2 billion. 

Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, and Caviar are some of the most popular and busy food delivery companies. Grubhub currently holds the largest market share at around 29%. But DoorDash’s market share is increasing faster than any of the others, with US consumers stating this as the most used eDelivery service in the last 12 months.

32. China Is Ahead of the Game

Most countries are using eDelivery, but this model is most prevalent in China, the world’s largest online food delivery market.

Revenue for eDelivery food services reached $58.7 billion in 2021, with an expected growth rate of 12.1% between 2022-2027. This means the eDelivery market in China is forecasted to reach over $118 billion by 2027.

In China, Meituan Waimai and Ele.me are the most commonly used eDelivery apps, accounting for 92% and 77% of orders.

The Impact of Fast Food Consumption

One thing is certain — as a global population, we consume a lot of fast food. But what effect does that have on our health? And what footprint does it leave on our environment?

33. Fast Food Leads to Overconsumption of Calories

Studies show that despite a slight decrease in the last few years, calories in fast food meals have steadily increased over the last 30 years. In fact, Americans get around 11.3% of their average total daily calories just from fast food.

The average fast food meal with an entrée, side, and drink totals around 836 calories, which is nearly half the daily recommended calorie allowance for women. 

For children, it’s even worse. When kids eat fast food, they tend to eat an extra 120 calories per day. While the odd fast food meal here and there won’t make much difference, regular visits to the drive-thru can add up to measurable weight gain.

34. Fast Food Can Increase Obesity Risk

Consuming too many calories inevitably leads to weight gain, which comes with many health risks.

Eating fast food twice a week or more can double someone’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, since it encourages insulin resistance. Just living near a fast food restaurant can increase your risk of developing obesity by over 5%.

35. Fast Food Increases Early Mortality Risk

With a higher risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes also comes an increased risk of developing other health problems, and even of early mortality.

A 2019 French study found that eating ultra-processed foods, including fast food, increases your risk of early mortality by an astonishing 62%. In fact, for each additional serving of ultra-processed foods per day (after four servings), your risk of early mortality rises by 18%.

36. We Underestimate the Number of Calories in Fast Food

Most of us have no idea how many calories are actually in our burgers and fries. In fact, we tend to severely underestimate how many calories our favorite fast food meals contain, which is a scary thought.

In a Harvard Medical School report, a group of children, adolescents, and adults were asked how many calories they thought were in a range of McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Subway, KFC, and Dunkin’ Donuts meals. 

Compared to the actual nutritional content, all groups underestimated calories in these meals by at least 170. Adolescents missed the mark the most, estimating over 250 fewer calories than the actual number. 

37. Soft Drinks Leave Us Wanting More

The soft drink from your favorite fast food chain might taste great, but it’s probably not great for you.

Most soft drinks contain a high level of high-fructose corn syrup, which is not only bad for your teeth, but also leaves you wanting more. 

The blood sugar spikes that follow these drinks can make you feel dehydrated, ironically making you want another drink. Do fast food chains use this syrup because it tastes nice, or is it to get you to buy more? 

Actually, research shows that excess availability of corn syrup led to a significant drop in prices, which meant fast food chains (and other soft drink companies) could save money by switching to corn-based ingredients. Regardless of the cheaper price, though, it leaves us spending more.

38. Fast Food Chains Add More Salt to Your Meal

Many fast food chains have tried to find ways to reduce the overall sodium content in their meals in recent years, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone completely. Salt content is still much higher than a few decades ago.

30 years ago, the average fast food meal in the US contained around 36% of your recommended daily sodium allowance. By 2016, this had increased to 47%, with a fast food meal containing nearly half of your daily salt content.

On average, they’re putting 50% more salt in your food than they were in the 1980s. Thirsty yet?

39. Fast Food Makes Us Hungrier

Ever eaten a fast food meal and felt hungry again 30 minutes later? That’s no coincidence.

Fast food is typically very high in salt, sugar, and fat, and studies have shown these foods can cause a spike in insulin, which leads to a drop in blood sugar. Thanks to that rise in insulin, it’s likely you’ll start to feel hungry again a short time after eating your fast food meal.

Fast food is also designed to be highly palatable. That means it breaks down quickly as you chew it. Aside from the fact that your box is empty in no time at all, being highly palatable also triggers the reward centers in your brain, training it to crave these foods over more nutritious options.

40. Beef Production Is Harming Our Environment

As a global population, we eat too much beef. The health implications aren’t the only issue — this is actually one of the main factors contributing to climate change.

For every kilogram of beef farmed, roughly 60 kilograms of CO2 is produced. In case you haven’t heard, CO2 is a harmful greenhouse gas that’s damaging our environment. Farming beef creates around 14 times more CO2 than raising pork and chicken, making it one of the worst culprits for climate change.

41. Fast Food Creates Excessive Waste

Around the world, we waste a total of 1.3 billion tons of food every year, which is a third of all food produced for human consumption, including fast food.

Fast food chains are some of the biggest contributors to food waste. On average, individual fast food kitchens create 200,000 pounds of food waste each year. 

With over 160,000 fast food chains throughout the US, that equates to around 32 billion pounds of waste annually.

42. Fast Food Packaging Is a Problem

Not only do fast food chains waste hundreds of tons of food every year, but they also waste a lot of packaging. Much of this packaging includes single-use plastics, which we all know are damaging our environment.

Fast food restaurants in the UK waste around 11 billion tons of packaging every year, most of which isn’t recyclable. While many fast food chains are taking steps to reduce waste, it’s still a global problem. Globally, McDonald’s throws away roughly 3 tons of packaging waste every minute.

The Future of Fast Food: Trends to Watch

As we look ahead to the next year and beyond, what does the future have in store for the fast food industry? Things look set to change drastically as fast food chains adapt to emerging customer trends, advancing technologies, and environmental pressures.

43. Fast Food Labor Costs Will Rise

In the US, labor costs were steadily rising at around 3% to 5% prior to the pandemic. The minimum wage is already set to rise to $15 per hour in many states, with talk of a national minimum wage hike. This means fast food chains will be facing a steep increase in labor costs.

Some states, and some fast food chains, have already implemented these changes. Starbucks has committed to paying its employees a minimum of $15 an hour within the next 3 years. 

While some say it’s good to see fast food chains upping wages, the rise in labor costs likely means cutting costs elsewhere. Where that will be, we don’t yet know.

44. Fast Food Chains Will Cut Their Workforce

Many fast food chains are struggling to fill positions, while others are simply employing less staff. But something else is also putting fast food jobs at risk — technology.

Digitally driven curbside pickups are a key trend for the future. They will mean easier, faster ordering for customers, as well as less busy drive-thrus — resulting in less need for staff. 

Drive-thrus are also likely to be getting upgrades, moving toward more automation and less human interaction. Not to mention the rise in eDeliveries, which means fewer people visiting fast food chains overall.

45. Expect Better Drive-Thru Experiences 

Drive-thrus will likely be getting a complete makeover in the not-too-distant future. 

Fast food chains that don’t currently have drive-thrus will be installing them, and those that do will be upgrading them. Think more lanes, faster-than-ever service, mobile ordering, customer recognition, and much more. 

With more customers on the road, however, many fast food chains will be providing smaller restaurants, so there’ll be fewer seats to choose from.

46. Curbside Pickup Will Be the Norm 

The number of curbside pickups surged during lockdown, with 28% of people in the US saying they used them throughout the pandemic. More interestingly, 19% said they plan to use them post-COVID, showing that curbside pickups may be here to stay.

Popular fast food chains are already finding ways to update their curbside pickup spots, whether by creating new spaces or digitizing the spaces already available for a seamless ordering experience.

47. Artificial Intelligence Will Change Fast Food Orders

Fast food chains are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and using it to improve customer experience.

It’s likely we’ll see new, digitized features such as voice-command and personalization. Many fast food chains will use AI to create tailored experiences for customers, including recommendations based on previous orders. 

Chains that maximize the use of AI will be able to recognize customers before they pull up. They’ll be able to see who their customers are and know what they order, so recommendations will pop up on screens before a customer even has time to open an app.

Taco Bell is already using AI to recommend the fastest route for customers when they arrive — either drive-thru or curbside pickup — to provide faster-than-ever service.

48. Meal Kits Will Give Consumers More Variety

With the pandemic having forced restaurants to close their doors, many turned to meal delivery kits to maintain their customer bases.

These meal kits not only give customers a fun eating experience, but they give restaurants a less costly way of serving customers. It’s a trend that’s sticking around and one that’s likely to put fast food chains under pressure.

With an increasing number of easy meal delivery options, customers have more variety. And that might just mean they turn away from their favorite fast food chain in favor of something new.

49. Fast Food eDelivery Will Grow

The pandemic gave customers the opportunity to enjoy their favorite restaurant foods from the comfort of their own homes, and they enjoyed it. 

Many consumers are actually expecting an option for eDelivery now. Some fast food chains are opting for in-house delivery services, while others are choosing to partner with third-party providers such as Uber Eats and DoorDash. Either way, consumers want fast food delivered to their door.

50. Expect Healthier Menu Options 

Healthier menus were top of consumers’ list of areas they’d like fast food chains to improve. Fast food chains are listening, with many already offering lighter options.

Expect to see more fast food chains improving the nutritional content of their popular dishes, while also offering new, lighter meals to accommodate the calorie-conscious among us.

Not only will fast food restaurants be offering health-friendly meals, but also healthier drinks. Kombucha is a fast-growing trend known to be full of health benefits, and it’s likely fast food chains will soon be offering this on their menus.

51. More Plant-Based and Vegan Choices

The plant-based and vegan market is growing rapidly. More and more of us are turning toward veganism and consuming less meat overall. 

Many fast food chains are innovating to adapt their menus and cater to these choices. From vegan burgers and no-fish filets to dairy-free cheese and gluten-free buns, we can expect a whole lot of change in the fast food menus we’re used to.

52. Breakfast Menus Will Expand

Fast food breakfast menus typically only consist of a few breakfast sandwiches, eggs, and perhaps yogurt. But things are changing.

As a result of the pandemic, 44% of Americans report eating breakfast at home more often. This trend isn’t likely to go away any time soon, so fast food chains will need to revamp their menus to cater to more tastes and options, especially if they want to stand out in the eDelivery market. 

53. More Organic Options

Organic food sales have been increasing steadily for many years. In 2019, worldwide organic food sales reached $106 billion — an increase from $95 billion the year before. 

More and more of us are also seeking out organic delivery services rather than opting for fast food meals. 

Fast food chains are capitalizing on this growing food trend by paying more attention to the food they source, especially meat. These chains are aware of the risk they run if they do not take steps to source sustainably farmed meat or make organic ingredients a priority.

54. More Sustainable Packaging

The concept of sustainability transcends merely the ingredients in our meals. Fast food establishments are reevaluating their packaging methods, adopting approaches that are kinder to the environment.

In particular, we’ll see fast food chains getting rid of plastic straws and cutlery, eliminating styrofoam packaging, and reducing food waste. 

Generally, consumers are willing to pay more for sustainably sourced ingredients and sustainable packaging, making the extra investment from fast food chains important if they want to appeal to their loyal diners.

The Bottom Line

Despite more and more people seeking alternatives to fulfill their cravings, the fast food industry continues to expand. QSR establishments are quick to adapt to emerging trends, with many chains already exploring new avenues such as introducing healthier menu options, offering eDelivery services, and incorporating technology to enhance customer engagement and satisfaction.

However, the industry now faces new competition as the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly transformed our food consumption habits. Restaurants are stepping up their efforts by providing online delivery services and meal kits, among other innovative solutions.

The question now is whether the fast food industry is able to evolve rapidly enough to maintain its current market share. Only time will reveal the answer. In the meantime, who's up for some pizza?

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