Consumers Spending Less on Fast Food; Eating At Home


The latest quarterly earnings updates from major quick-service giants Yum! Brands, Starbucks and McDonald’s reflect ongoing adjustments in consumer behavior among the current economic environment. 

As reported by Fox Business, each company’s results highlight the differing impacts of market conditions on their global operations. The trends also suggest more consumers are opting to eat at home.

This trend not only impacts the big, national brands but also small business restaurants who are also dealing with crippling rising costs in food and wages.

Yum! Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, reported a 3% decline in same-store sales for the first quarter. 

CEO of Yum! Brands, David Gibbs, indicated the downturn was anticipated because of several factors, including market conditions related to the Middle East conflict and a return to more typical inflation levels. 

“As far as the international consumer goes, it’s probably more of an emphasis on value than there has been in past quarters,” Gibbs said of KFC. “We are seeing the same thing in the U.S.”

Among its brands, Pizza Hut faced the steepest drop in same-store sales, down 7%, while KFC saw a smaller decline of 2%. Taco Bell, on the other hand,  experienced a modest increase of 1%. 

Despite these challenges, Yum! Brands experienced strong two-year same-store sales growth, signaling positive momentum as the quarter concluded.

Starbucks’ challenges were more pronounced, with a 4% decrease in global comparable store sales during its second quarter. The downturn was primarily due to a 6% fall in transaction volume, though somewhat offset by a 2% rise in average ticket prices. 

Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan pointed to the ongoing cautious behavior of consumers and a deteriorating economic outlook affecting customer traffic, particularly in key markets. 

“Headwinds discussed last quarter have continued in a number of key markets; we continue to feel the impact of a more cautious consumer, particularly with our more occasional customer, and a deteriorating economic outlook has weighed on customer traffic and impact felt broadly across the industry,” Narasimhan told Fox Business. 

“In the U.S., severe weather impacted both our U.S. and total company comp by nearly 3% during the quarter,” Laxman continued. “The remainder of our challenges were attributable to fewer visits from our more occasional customers.”

Meanwhile, McDonald’s reported a 1.9% increase in comparable sales during the first quarter, although this growth rate was slower compared to previous quarters. 

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said the persistence of broad-based consumer pressures is being felt globally. Elevated prices and economic challenges have led consumers to become more discerning with their spending, impacting the quick-service restaurant industry significantly. 

“Consumers continue to be even more discriminating with every dollar that they spend as they (face) elevated prices in their day-to-day spending, which is putting pressure on the QSR industry,” Kempczinski said. “It is worth noting the Q1 industry traffic was flat to declining in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the U.K. And across almost all major markets, industry traffic is slowing.”

Amid economic pressures, many QSRs, including the three discussed, have emphasized value and promotional deals to attract consumers who are increasingly opting to dine at home to manage expenses better. 

The strategy reflects a broader trend in the industry where some competitors, like Chipotle and Restaurant Brands International, have reported growth in comparable sales in their most recent quarters.

Image: Depositphotos

Samantha Lile Samantha Lile is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 3 years. She is also a freelance writer and journalist who contributes to a variety of web publications from her home office in the heart of the Ozarks.