U.S. fast-food chains have spent considerable time the past couple of years trying to counter falling sales by targeting millennials. Maybe the industry should be targeting their pets instead.
According to a new survey by marketing research firm Relevation Research, one in every six American households orders fast food for a dog during at least some of their drive-thru or take-out visits.
It makes one wonder whether fast-food restaurants should start making this a formal thing. Should McDonald’s come out with a McKibble burger? Maybe Burger King should introduce the Doggy Whopper? And why should burger joints have all the fun? How about Taco Bell coming out with some canine-style nachos?
Even without fast food joints offering treats specifically for dogs, about one-third of dog owners report going through the drive-thru with their canines, and about 80% of them say they order something specifically for their pet. People visited McDonald’s most often with Fido, followed by Burger King and Wendy’s, the survey said.
According to the 2013-14 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, dog ownership is expected to grow until 2018, with owners continuing the 20-year trend toward more and more pampering. The two population segments showing the most growth are millennials and baby boomers.
“Because of disposable incomes and empty nester status, baby boomer owners could be strong candidates for QSR (quick-service restaurants),” Nan Martin, principal at Relevation Research, said in a release. “But the baby boomer also has an evolving focus on health. That means menu items specifically targeted for dogs or dog-friendly in terms of ingredients will resonate best. QSR and dog food/treat manufacturers should team up to design dog-safe offerings. Companies catering to the dog will win with owners who want to, guilt-free, feel like they’re spoiling the dog.”
One restaurant chain has already caught onto the trend. Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar — which has 16 locations in California and Nevada — has a specific menu for dogs that includes a grilled hamburger with brown rice, a grilled chicken breast with brown rice, and plain brown rice.
Fast-food sales are down and the millennials aren’t coming. Is it time for fast food to go to the dogs?
Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.