How fast-food leveraged the pandemic to play the community hero

GlobalData Consumer 23rd October 2020 (Last Updated October 23rd, 2020 15:26)

How fast-food leveraged the pandemic to play the community hero

Burger King gave away 250,000 burgers to frontline US health workers during the height of the pandemic earlier this year. In the UK, Subway gave away more than 250,000 subs, salads, and wraps to workers in the National Health Service. In the US, BK removed delivery fees under the auspices of encouraging public health through social distancing, and who could argue? While one would be justified in saying that free delivery of fast-food isn’t ideal for public health, in the context of Covid-19 tearing through the world, priorities, concerning health, are somewhat different.

Much has been said about how various brands have capitulated, adapted, and innovated in order to stay viable during the pandemic, with imaginative strategies being pursued as companies entered fight-or-flight mode early this year. Price cuts, price increases, mergers, sell-offs, many tactics have been employed thus far, but one that has been utilised particularly well in foodservice? Solidarity with the public.

Trends such as social responsibility, in which consumers ask for more from brands than just products and services, where brands are expected to share some social causes with their consumers, have been leveraged with varying degrees of success throughout the pandemic. 75% of consumers globally state that ethics and social responsibility have an influence on their purchasing choices. The fight against Covid-19 is arguably the biggest societal cause right now, globally. Any brand seen to be helping that cause can gain public sympathy from displays of solidarity.

In this new world, multinational fast-food conglomerates have been able to market and campaign from a position of public health interest. This relative success of brands such as McDonald’s running adverts, showing all their health protocols, is one significant aspect. It is a demonstration of care and concern for public wellbeing, a stance they are not usually permitted to take. Another is the solidarity message, and this is where the two trends – individual health consciousness and public health consciousness – convene in a highly unusual way.

The salience of personal health has risen due to this pandemic with GlobalData surveys showing that people are more health-conscious than before and that it has informed their spending choices. Indeed, 49% of global consumers said that the extent, to which a product is natural / free from ingredients, is more important than before the pandemic. However, while health-consciousness may have affected consumer’s purchasing habits in supermarkets (for example, buying more veggie options), big fast-food chains have been able to tap into people’s new health-preoccupation with messages and offerings, relating to public health generally.

In terms of what this means for ‘after’, fast-food chains have seen that in their line of business, health is an issue best tackled from a societal angle, not an individual one.