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How Consumer Sentiment About the Fast Food Industry Has Been Affected by the Pandemic

How Consumer Sentiment About the Fast Food Industry Has Been Affected by the Pandemic

Starbucks ranked number one in the fast food industry followed by Chick-fil-A and McDonald's.

The fast food industry ranked sixth out of the 15 industries studied in the Brand Intimacy 2020 Study by MBLM, which studied brands based on emotions. MBLM (pronounced Emblem) used emotional science to build more intimate brands during these unprecedented times. It also analyzed how consumer sentiment about the industry has been affected by the pandemic.

Defined as the emotional science that measures the bonds consumers form with brands, Brand Intimacy has become more important as brands adjust the way they connect with consumers during the pandemic.


Related: Fast Food and Restaurant Chains that are Downsizing in 2020


Now in its tenth year, MBLM’s study revealed that Starbucks ranked number one in the fast food industry followed by Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s. The other brands that landed a spot in the top ten were Dunkin’, Subway, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Domino’s and Pizza Hut.

MBLM also examined how COVID-19 has both impacted the industry for the worse, but also for the better. For example, Pizza Hut’s largest franchisee, NPC International, Inc., filed for bankruptcy due to shutdowns, which tacked on to the stress and competition the company had been facing. Domino’s, however, saw comparable-store sales increase by over 20 percent in April and May and its stock was up 26 percent for 2020 as of July.

Some fast food industry players also engaged in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and shifted some of their profits towards donations during the pandemic. Chick-fil-A, for example, created a $10.8 million community relief effort in April, providing funds to franchisees to distribute to local communities in need. Starbucks launched its Global Partner Emergency Relief Program in April to help its employees impacted by the pandemic.

In an article entitled, “Fast Food & COVID-19. How consumers are talking about their favorite fast food brands during the pandemic,” MBLM further reviewed the industry’s performance in the study and the impact of the pandemic. While the brands spoke in generally similar terms about their responses to COVID-19, the agency found that consumers spoke differently about each brand on social media.

As the top stop winner, Starbucks’ users demonstrated high levels of emotion for the brand. Expressing some disappointment about the brand adapting to COVID-19, Chick-fil-A’s users spoke about service and reliability with the brand strongly linked to being efficient. McDonald’s was not seen a positive light, as users viewed it as a big corporation that did not protect its employees and cared only about profits.

MBLM concluded that it seems likely consumers will continue to deepen their emotional attachments with the brands in this space as states reopen, close and reopen in varying degrees. The agency noted that brands will continue to evolve their offerings and provide the indulgence many crave.