Australia’s generations of fast-food fans

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock
Generations Y and Z are still markedly more likely than their seniors to eat at big-name fast-food chains, though the rate they visit them is in slow decline—perhaps due to the rise of hipster hangouts.

According to new market research, the proportion of Australians who visited McDonald’s at least once a month has gone down slightly to 29.5% from 31% in 2012, suggesting that Generation X and Baby Boomers might also be losing interest in the traditional fast-food joint.

Trade at rival Hungry Jacks has remained steady, though it has seen a pronounced decline among Generation Y customers and uptake among Gen Z-ers, the report, by Roy Morgan Research, revealed.

Percentage of each generation who visit burger chains in an average month, 2012 v 2016
Percentage of each generation who visit burger chains in an average month, 2012 v 2016

Meanwhile, the proportion of Generation Y diners who visit more niche and artisanal hamburger outlets each month has grown from 4.7% to 6.4%.

KFC rules the roost for fast-food chicken, though the proportion of Australians visiting the chain at least once a month slipped slightly. Like McDonalds, its popularity is strongest with Generations Y and Z. And though there has been a decrease among Generation Y visitors to KFC since 2012, Gen Z are more likely to go there now than they were four years ago. 

The smaller, more epicurean chicken chains Nando’s and Oporto were visited by 3.4% and 2.6% of Australians respectively in an average month. Once again, Generations Y and Z far outstripped their elders at these smaller players, but their numbers have mainly declined since 2012. Unlike burger restaurants, there is no obvious shift towards niche hot chicken joints. 

Percentage of each generation who visit hot chicken chains in an average month, 2012 v 2016
Percentage of each generation who visit hot chicken chains in an average month, 2012 v 2016

The rise of Domino’s Pizza is the key theme when it comes to the pizza segment. Despite its mainstream status, Domino’s continues to draw the younger generations, with Gen Y up from 13.5% to 15.5%, and Gen Z up from 14% to 18.5%, 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-orientated 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. 

As Australia’s foodie culture grows 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 Generation Y—for hipster culinary experiences cannot be ignored​,” said Norman Morris of Roy Morgan Research. 

Percentage of each generation who visit pizza chains in an average month, 2012 v. 2016
Percentage of each generation who visit pizza chains in an average month, 2012 v 2016

McDonald’s, for example, is actively addressing this, even opening an almost unbranded café (The Corner) in Sydney to try out potential hipster-friendly menu items before rolling them out in their stores. 

It’s also worth noting that Generations Y and Z are showing a growing penchant for Mexican fast food, and we will be monitoring visitation of relative newcomers such as Guzman y Gomez and Mad Mex in coming months​,” Morris added.

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