During the height of the pandemic, several Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) closed or reduced operations and started offering takeout and delivery. Though consumers cooked at home more and spent less on restaurants, including QSRs, the QSR market has rebounded quickly compared to other casual dining restaurants and is well-positioned to succeed in our post-pandemic environment, according to AdColony’s Mobile Trends in QSR report.

Consumers are still cautious of densely populated public spaces, meaning food delivery, prepared food and groceries will continue to outpace in-restaurant dining despite the roll-out of vaccines and safety measures. Despite this, demand for takeout is actually increasing. QSRs can take advantage of this phenomenon now and post-pandemic given their emphasis on hygiene standards and how they’ve utilized technology (i.e., QR codes, online and mobile apps) to make delivery and takeaway seamless.

According to a Buyer’s Edge Platform survey, 36 percent of consumers are hopeful that the tech solutions currently in place, such as contactless ordering and payment, continue post-pandemic. Consumer sentiment has changed in other ways as well, which AdColony breaks down into three new consumer trends in QSR. First, consumers are spending more. The average check size at Starbucks, for example, grew 25 percent in mid-2020 and continues to climb today. Second, consumers are stocking up. Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Domino’s have all observed larger, family-sized or bulk orders. And third, consumers, families in particular, are eating more fast food than they did pre-pandemic.

For its latest report, AdColony studied the food and drink habits of mobile gamers, a cohort that’s growing rapidly in the US. There was a 12 percent increase in the number of people playing mobile games in early 2021, with 80 percent of all mobile users in the US reporting playing mobile games at least once per month and more than 50 percent saying they played weekly or more frequently than that in 2020.

AdColony and GWI conducted a survey of 1,044 mobile gamers and found that 35 percent are eating fast food at least once per week, 22 percent more than once per week and 16 percent at least once every two weeks. Despite the stereotypical image of a mobile-gaming fast-food consumer, 46 percent of those who eat it more than once per week and 53 percent of those who consume it at least once per week are female.

Mobile gamers who consume fast food at least once per week demonstrated disparate preferences in regard to the types of games they play, other forms of entertainment and their online interactions with brands, AdColony found.

Among this cohort, 27 percent use an app that tracks calories; and they’re more likely than mobile gamers who do not eat fast food at least once per week to play word, strategy, casino, arcade and action games. They’re also more likely to visit a movie theater and purchase online content to keep forever.

Mobile gamers who consume fast food at least once per week are more likely than other mobile gamers to visit a brand’s website, use a search engine to research a product or brand from an ad, read reviews about the product or brand from an ad and download the brand’s app. The only similarity that this cohort shares with other mobile gamers is the percentage of them who click on an ad (34 percent).

Over 33 percent of mobile gamers dine out at least once per week while 52 percent do so at least once per month. Among mobile gamers who eat fast food or at restaurants at least monthly, drive-thrus at McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s are the most popular, while dining in is the preferred option only at Five Guys.

Sixty-five percent of mobile gamers reported ordering takeaway food on apps and websites and 54 percent reported using drive-thrus more than they did before April 2020. As for delivery via apps and websites, the top brands are in pizza delivery with Domino’s being the most popular, followed by Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. Roughly half of mobile gamers who increased their frequency of curbside pickup behavior during the pandemic did so more often with Subway (45 percent), Domino’s (32 percent) and Starbucks (32 percent).

AdColony predicts that many of these behaviors will remain through and after the pandemic. Positive user experience and the convenience of apps may even increase some of these trends in the future. Brands seeking to capture some of this growth must showcase the convenience of their curbside pickup app offerings for saving time waiting in lines and having to order on the spot and then waiting for the food to be prepared.

As for general brand awareness, mobile games offer the chance to reach potential customers with new menu items or promotions before they’re even at the drive-thru or open the app to order. Because mobile gamers are proven fast food consumers and use online and app ordering services regularly, in-app advertising can help propel a brand or product to the forefront of their minds efficiently and seamlessly.