Golden hour under the Golden Arches

A new category of consumer has created a new peak hour for fast-food restaurants in Australia. Tina Nielsen reports on the newest snack trend

According to a study, commissioned by Australia’s Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), the most popular hour for snacking Down Under is between 3pm and 4pm on weekdays. The study, tracking drive-through trips to fast food restaurants in 1980, 1993 and 2016, compared consumer behaviour over the years.

The study found that the average number of trips to selected McDonald’s outlets across New South Wales showed people going through the doors of the Golden Arches or drive-throughs during mid-afternoon was quadruple the 1993 rate of 50 visitors every hour.

One McDonald’s store in Sydney peaked with 272 trips at 3pm on Wednesday. The growth in business at this hour is driven mainly by older Millennials and young professionals, not by school children.

Favourite fast food

The study was released as Australia battles an obesity problem. Almost one-quarter of children and two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The 2011/12 national nutrition survey found that one-third of Australians’ diets involved junk food, with young people more likely to eat poorly.

In the 1993 iteration of the study, the “after school” snacking time was not even present, indicating that mid-afternoon trips to McDonald’s are a more recent development.

According to a study by Roy Morgan Research, McDonald’s remains the number one pick for fast food (or quick service restaurant) with over half of Australians, or 52.7%, eating at or having McDonald’s takeaway in an average six months. But Australia’s enthusiasm for fast food – the market is worth an estimated $6.5bn – has encouraged other operators to embrace the Aussie market.

One of them, Taco Bell, last year announced a third push into the Australian market. Previously the American brand, already operating 7,000 US stores, has unsuccessfully tried to establish a presence Down Under in the 1980s and the 1990s. Franchise specialists Collins Food group will partner with Yum! Brands in the launch of as many as 50 Taco Bell stores in Australia.  

Tina Nielsen

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