Where Millennials and McWraps Meet, Contradictions Abound

Millennials are a tricky population to understand, challenging marketers to devise innovative strategies to reach and engage this often fickle consumer segment. The fast food industry in particular is striving to understand the diverse tastes and tendencies of Millennials – employing tactics such as new menu items and social media to bring this attractive segment through their doors and drive-thrus.


In Part 2 of our recently published Dining Out in America series, we highlighted Millennials’ fast food behaviors using the Placed Questions feature of our Placed Insights service. Placed Questions allows us to capture deep and practical insights from our panelists by combining location data with the ability to send survey questions to panelists who visited certain establishments.


So what did we find? Some very interesting contradictions and confirmations on Millennials’ dining habits. By taking a look at McDonald’s and their newly launched McWrap sandwich we can explore the implications of our findings.


After leveraging location information and survey answers, we found that Millennials aged 18-34 under index in their likelihood to visit McDonald’s compared to the average U.S. consumer. However, the more likely purchaser of the McWrap was in the 25-34 age range. As a result, the less likely visitors of McDonald’s were among the highest consumers of their newest menu item. It seems like a contradiction, but at the same time it is a confirmation of the early success of McDonald’s strategy for the sandwich.


According to an internal company memo, the McWrap is meant to draw in the Millennial audience by catering to their desire for variety and customization. With three different flavor options and two styles of chicken, the 6 option wrap has shown early evidence of drawing a Millennial crowd.




Going beyond menu choices alone, we also found that purchasers of the McWrap were 6% less likely to go to a gym and among the least likely to place an importance on healthy menu options when deciding where to dine. Yet they chose the menu item promoted with the hashtag #unwrapwhatsfresh, meant to convey a healthier choice for McDonald’s patrons. These findings are nothing short of interesting and provide evidence into Millennials’ complex and often contradictory behaviors.




To learn more about trends in America’s fast casual and fast food environment, download and explore our Dining Out in America Part 2: The Impact of New Menu Items, Value, and Nutrition white paper.

How Region and Ethnicity Impact America’s Fast Food Preferences

Northeast vs. West Coast, South vs. Midwest, America proved that quick service restaurants are among its most favored businesses.


In our recent report, Dining Out in America: The Quick Service Restaurant Landscape, we took a look at the most popular fast food brands in the nation, including a deep dive into the differences in dining preferences by region and demographic segments.


Regionally, consumers in the West and Northeast share a love for quick food and quick coffee. In each region, McDonald’s was #1, Subway #3, and Burger King #4. What was #2 for each? The rival coffee giants – Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. It appears that America does run on Dunkin’, but only in the Northeast.  In the West, as well as South and Midwest, Starbucks stole the coffee show.


The coffee giants’ coastal dominance is likely impacted by their geographical starts, Dunkin’ Donuts (Massachusetts), Starbucks (Seattle), while Starbucks’ aggressive expansion strategy has positioned it among the top 10 most-visited places in each region.  With Starbucks poised to add 1,500 additional U.S. locations in the next five years it will be interesting to see if Dunkin’ Donuts will maintain its top coffee position in the Northeast.



When we shifted the lens from region-by-region analysis to focus on the role of ethnicity in dining preferences, we discovered a number of interesting insights. For instance, Asian Americans are nearly 4X more likely to visit Jamba Juice and over 1.5X  more likely to visit Starbucks than the average American.  On the flip side, they are also less likely to visit the Big 4 (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Taco Bell) than the average American. In the case of Wendy’s specifically, Asian Americans are 46% less likely to stop in for a meal. This should sound an alarm for Wendy’s as well as highlight the potential for reaching this largely untapped segment.



To see more trends in the fast food  landscape, check out our full report: Dining Out in America.