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Want a look behind the wizard’s curtain? And in this case, by “wizard”” we mean QSR wizard, McDonald’s, whose longtime reign over the burger chain kingdom is the envy of many in and outside the industry. A quick look at some of the brand’s key data gives a glimpse at some of the things that make the mega chain tick, and thanks to an extrapolation of proprietary data from Sense360, we are sharing that data with you today.

The organization culled data on more than 5 million monthly consumer visits across the chain’s 14,180 U.S. locations where it claims a whopping 17 percent of the total fast food traffic market and sells about 3.2 million Happy Meals daily. The lowdown that follows is high on eye-opening facts and a few not-so-surprising details.

Hark, who goes there?
It turns out the demographic breakdown of McDonald’s visitors closely mirrors that for the country as a whole with 66 percent of its customers identifying as Caucasian,15 percent as Hispanic, 13 percent as black  and 2 percent Asian.

When do we love thee?
All the time would be the best answer on this one, but breakfast is big, and lunch is even bigger with 10 percent of the category visits occurring under the golden arches at noon each day. In all, the chain sees 38.5 percent of its total visits between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. with the biggest days of the week being Fridays and Saturdays, which gain 33 percent of McDonald’s total traffic, according to Sense360. But on the weekend, the chain’s visitation curve shows most visits happen during breakfast and lunchtime, but business dies off fairly dramatically at dinner, then picks back up late at night as everybody heads home from playtime.

Customers are only partly faithful…
Sense360 said the data shows that McDonald’s customers aren’t above “cheating” with another brand but typically stay with a type of QSR gal. The data show that about 18 percent of McDonald’s customers also eat at Subway and Starbucks, 14 percent make stops at Taco Bell and an equal number also stop at Wendy’s, while 13 percent like a little Burger King now and then.

But overall, the chain dominates the competition on an absolute level, as well as in head-to-head competitions with just about everybody but Chick-Fil-A, In-N-Out and Starbucks. In fact, here’s a closer look at the one-on-one battles when two QSR chains are within .5 miles of each other, according to Sense360:

  • Burger King: McDonald’s 70 percent to Burger King’s 30 percent
  • Wendy’s: McDonald’s 62 percent to Wendy’s 38 percent
  • Chick-Fil-A: McDonald’s 35 percent  to Chick-Fil-A 65 percent
  • Taco Bell: McDonald’s 63 percent to Taco Bell 37 percent
  • In-N-Out: McDonald’s 32 percent to In-N-Out 68 percent
  • Starbucks: McDonald’s 46 percent to Starbucks 54 percent
  • Subway: McDonald’s 73 percent to Subway 27 percent
  • Sonic: McDonald’s 58 percent to Sonic 42 percent
  • Panera: McDonald’s 68 percent to Panera 32 percent
  • KFC: McDonald’s 71 percent to KFC 29 percent

And now for the fun facts … 
Ever wondered who attracts more religious folks? Perhaps given the views of one particular chain, it will not be so surprising that more religious customers tend toward Chick-fil-A with its customers tending to be 25 percent more likely to attend places of worship than those at McDonald’s, according to Sense360.

Politically, McDonald’s performance remains fairly consistent between red and blue states, while Chick-fil-A metrics strongly improve in red. And finally, when it comes to household income, McDonald’s reigns with lower income folks. According to Sense360, 18 percent of the chain’s customers report annual incomes under $80,000 for their households, while less than 15 percent make more than $80,000 annually.

Reprinted with permission from

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, S.A. Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of and after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

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