Which Helps Explain Why There Are So Many Eateries Around The U.S.

Quick-serve restaurants and sit-down restaurants generally attract different clienteles. But a study by Scarborough Research notes the existence of an omnivorous 7 percent of the adult population: heavy users of quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) and of sit-down restaurants.

People in what Scarborough (perhaps tactlessly) dubs this “heavy/heavy” cohort skew young, with 40 percent falling into the 18-34 age bracket. They also tend to have above-average incomes: Those in the $75,000-100,000 income group are twice as likely as those in the under-$30,000 class to be heavy/heavies. People in the South are the most likely to be heavy/heavies, those in the Northeast the least likely. What sort of food do the heavy/heavies go for when they’re not at a McDonald’s? Sixty-nine percent report having eaten at a Chinese restaurant in the past 30 days (vs. 42 percent of all adults). Mexican food is another favorite: 55 percent of heavy/heavies (vs. 27 percent of adults in general) said they ate at a Mexican restaurant during that period.

Looking beyond the heavy/heavy segment, the report finds Americans in general are avid restaurant-goers. Ninety-six percent of adults reported eating at some sort of restaurant at least once a month. Eighteen percent reported going to a QSR at least 10 times in the month prior to being surveyed (meeting Scarborough’s definition for a heavy user of that segment). Nineteen percent said they’d gone to a sit-down restaurant at least six times in the past month.

The study found heavy QSR users differing from the stereotype applied to them. “While we tend to think of a QSR meal as a low-cost alternative, heavy QSR diners tend to come from households with higher incomes than the general population.” A good thing, too, since they often have kids to feed. “Adults who live in a household with children under 17 are especially likely to be heavy QSR diners.” For one thing, kids in a household draw older adults to QSRs. Overall, people 45-plus are only 70 percent as likely as adults in general to be heavy users of QSRs. But people 45-plus who have minor kids at home are 7 percent more likely than the general adult population to be heavy QSR users.

Like their heavy-QSR counterparts, heavy users of sit-down restaurants have above-average incomes. What they don’t have are kids living at home. This is consistent with the fact that heavy sit-downers skew toward the 45-64 age range. The offspring who might once have pestered them for Happy Meals have grown up and left home, leaving their parents to savor the joys of civilized dining on the town. Bon appétit!