Fast Food’s Latest Competition: Supermarkets

Nevin Barich

Pizza at Whole Foods Market. Photo by Bart Heird

Recently, I had some buddies over at my house to watch boxing and play poker. My plan for food was typical “guys’ night” fare: pizza, chicken wings, chips and dip, soda, beer. The day of the party, I was at the market buying the chips when I saw huge pre-cooked pizzas and boxes of wings, all on sale and for cheaper than if I ordered food from Pizza Hut or Domino’s. It occurred to me simply to buy everything there.

That’s a microcosm of a growing trend in fast food: While the industry has long been battling strong competition from the fast-casual sector, it’s now having to fight on a second front: supermarkets.

According to a new analyst report by market research firm The NPD Group, quick-service restaurant customers often choose foodservice from grocery stores and convenience stores. From March to June this year, the number of fast-food purchases per customer made at supermarkets and convenience stores was over six visits higher than those made at QSRs in an average four-week period.

Foodservice from retail outlets has also incrementally added customers, according to NPD’s QSR Plus Retail Market Monitor. Supermarkets account for a high percentage of purchases of chicken, side dishes, and salads.

“Consumers use QSRs, convenience and grocery stores interchangeably for fast food, particularly when they find the same quality and variety,” Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst, said in a press release. “The lines between retail foodservice and QSRs are blurring for consumers, and these channels are competing for visits from consumers looking for a quick meal or snack.”

It remains to be seen how much this trend will grow or how much of a threat it will be to fast food. So far, McDonald’s and Burger King haven’t run any ads trying to stop people from going grocery shopping. But the next time you go to a party, don’t assume the pizza and wings were delivered from a restaurant. The food might just as easily have come from the market down the street.

"Fast Food’s Latest Competition: Supermarkets" originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.