The quick service restaurant industry is beginning to view the term “fast food” as a negative term. Despite this fact, however, there is a definite difference in a fast food provider when compared to a sit-down restaurant or other meal option.
80% of Americans state that they eat fast food at least once per month.
Fast food is often blamed for the obesity epidemic that is being seen in the US especially. With foods that have high fat content, high sodium content, and high caloric counts, there may be some truth to that blame. Yet the fast food demographics show that there are a number of influences that have created an urge to eat these foods on a sometimes daily basis.
How Many People Are Eating Fast Food?
- 4% of people state that they don’t ever consume fast food. On the other end of this spectrum, about 3% of people state that they eat fast food every day.
- 1 in 3 people in the US state that they eat fast food 1-2x per month.
- 28% of people state that they’ll eat fast food about once per week. 16% of people say that they eat it several times per week.
- People in the 18-29 age demographic are the most likely to consume fast food regularly, with 57% in this demographic stating that they do so.
- 53% of men state that they eat fast food at least weekly. 53% of Hispanics also say the same thing.
- It isn’t the poor who eat the most fast food – people with household incomes of $75k or greater [51%] are more likely to eat fast food at least once per week than people with household incomes of $20k or less [39%].
- Hispanics and African-Americans/Blacks are 6 percentage points more likely to consume fast food weekly when compared to Caucasians/Whites.
- 42% of women say that they will eat fast food weekly. Another 42% of women say that they’ll eat fast food 1-2x per month.
- 70% of people who eat fast food on at least a weekly basis state that they believe the foods they are eating are not healthy for them.
The general public tends to believe that fast food choices tend to provide unhealthy eating options. Despite this fact, most people in the world today will frequently visit fast food providers if they have access to them because the convenience of the food and its lower overall perceived cost are benefits that outweigh the potentially unhealthy nature of the food. Could this be because people with higher incomes tend to have less time and/or energy to cook at home, so they just grab a meal as they can and call it good?
The Marketing Dominance of Fast Food
- When showed the symbol of the cross, just 54% of people noted that this was the symbol of Christianity. When showed the golden arches of McDonald’s without any other branding, 88% of people could identify the brand.
- More than half of Americans [52%] say that it is easier to complete their taxes each year than it is to find alternative eating options than fast food.
- 30% of Americans in a recent survey stated that they didn’t believe their caloric intake contributed to their weight.
- 1 in 5 Americans will eat a fast food meal in their vehicle on any given day.
- 110 million Americans will have visited at least one fast food restaurant in the past month.
- Packaged foods contribute to 30% more of the typical American’s diet when compared to fresh food options.
- Up to 10% of the average American’s income will be spent on purchasing fast food products in any given year.
- These habits occur even though just 2% of people who consume fast food believe it is healthy and good for them.
- There are an estimated 500,000 fast food locations in the world today, with more than 10% of the world’s total locations being in the United States.
When the demographics of fast food are explored, it is easy to see why people are willing to compromise their health for convenience. If you want to purchase a steak at the grocery store, you might spend $7. In comparison, you could purchase two cheeseburgers at a fast food provider for $2 or less. At the $4 mark, you can create an entire meal and feel full. When there are economic challenges which must be met, households are going to look for the cheapest possible eating option that is better than eating ramen noodles every day. That’s why virtually everyone fits into the fast food demographics in some way.
Interesting Facts About the Fast Food Demographics
- People who live in smaller households are more likely to eat out of the home than people who live in larger households.
- Older couples who have had their children leave home spend up to 65% more on their meals when they eat out compared to any other group.
- When fast food restaurants are located in African-American/Black communities, they are 60% more likely to advertise products directly to children.
- 31% of fast food chain restaurants use child-directed marketing for menu items on a regular basis. That’s 11 percentage points higher than non-chain restaurants.
- 1 in 3 kids between the ages of 2-11 will eat at least one fast food menu item daily. Once a child reaches the age of 12, that figure becomes 1 in 2 kids.
- 13% of the calories that are consumed by children under the age of 18 in the United States comes from fast food menu items.
- In the average year, a child will see 223 advertisements for McDonald’s Happy Meals with chicken nuggets or Burger King kids’ meals.
- $700 million. That’s the amount the fast food industry spends to reach out to children through advertising annually.
When fast food is used as a treat here and there, then the impact it has on a person’s health is rather minimal. Even people who are in the best of shape need to have a cheat day every now and then, right? It is when facts are being ignored, when choices are made even when people know they are unhealthy, and then this cycle is allowed to repeat that fast food becomes a dangerous choice. No wonder why the quick service industry wants to stop using that term to describe their foods. Maybe a “prettier” name will help to drive more people to consume these foods more often… or at least have children keep pestering their parents for another Happy Meal so they can get a new toy.
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