Fast food and burger chains have long dominated the quick service restaurant (QSR) scene, but there have been whispers of waning popularity following the mid-2010s burger boom, with the data substantiating the suggestions.

Even if burgers are still the leader in fast food, chicken shops are now in second place and the category’s growth is outpacing its rival. According to research by The NPD group, the last three years have seen chicken-focused QSR traffic increase by 2.8 per cent, while burger growth was 1.6 per cent. However, the average eater bill of chicken QSR visits is $9.38, an increase of 1.5 per cent in the last three years compared to the average bill of burger QSR visits, which has risen by 2.7 per cent.

Millennials (18–34 year olds) are the main trend drivers, consuming 42 per cent of chicken servings in the foodservice industry. The generation are opting for chicken wings or nuggets, but chicken burgers are the most popular choice.

“Chicken is getting even more attention from millennials who have increased their share of visits to QSR chicken outlets by 4.6 per cent — above any other age group in the last three years,” says Seton Leung, head of Australia Foodservice, The NPD Group Australia.

The boom can be attributed, in part, to health concerns. There’s a widespread belief red meat has high cholesterol levels and health professionals recommend limiting red meat consumption to a few meals a week. Of those canvased during research, 8.8 per cent mentioned they had chosen a QSR chicken outlet because it offered healthy options.

Value packs and seasonal menu items have also helped operators generate traffic: 37 per cent of QSR chicken consumers mentioned they utilised some form of deal in their visits, compared to 27 per cent of deal-led consumers in the foodservice industry as a whole.

The numbers are more impressive when looked at against broader growth trends in the industry: foodservice as a whole has only grown by 0.5 per cent since 2017 and the entire QSR channel grew 0.8 per cent in the period from October 2017 to September 2019.

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