Although the quick-service restaurant space is far more saturated now than it was a decade ago, the category has still been fairly slow in terms of growth over the past few years. Back in the early 2000s, new QSR and fast-casual formats like Sweetgreen and Dig Inn got all sorts of attention simply by opening their doors because the category was still new and fresh. But now that the novelty has faded, that fast, steep growth has faded with it—which is where cannabis consumers may come in to save the day.
As a previously inaccessible audience, cannabis consumers are already appealing simply because they have entered the mainstream. But according to a recent survey from consumer research group MRI-Simmons, cannabis consumers are also incredibly loyal QSR consumers, making them even more attractive to marketers at big restaurant brands. That loyalty is ultimately rooted in their busy lifestyles: They are so on the move that they are 67% more likely to have adopted home delivery services like Grubhub, DoorDash, UberEats, and Postmates than non-cannabis consumers. After all, who has time to cook when you’re busy killing it at work and in the rest of your life?
Along those lines, cannabis consumers are also 17% more likely to eat their meals on the go. And that convenience-first mentality applies to all parts of the day: They are 43% more likely to pick something up for breakfast, 40% more likely to do so for lunch, 43% more likely to stop for dinner, and 55% more likely to pick up snacks at all hours. Not surprisingly, they are also 68% more likely to use the drive-thru than non-cannabis consumers.
But being busy and eating on the run is not the only characteristic that makes them prime targets for QSR marketers. In addition to prioritizing speed and efficiency, cannabis consumers also value the quality of the food itself.
Exhibit A: They are 20% more likely to be the restaurant whisperers in their friend group (i.e., the ones people go to when the inevitable “where should we eat” question comes up). And while you may think that the “foodies” of the group would flock to trendy “it” restaurants of the truffle oil variety, cannabis consumers actually hit up everyday spots the most.
Their top QSR choices are pizza (40%), sandwiches (37%), Mexican food (39%), chicken (35%), and burgers (23%), and, quite often, their go-to restaurant suggestions revolve around choices galore. 22% of them are more likely to seek out spots with variety, like Chipotle and Del Taco, that let you personalize your own bowls and load up on fun toppings and sauces.
And in a telling nod to their love of friendship, they also gravitate toward places that emphasize the social ~experience~ above all else, like Dave & Buster’s, Smokey Bones, Hard Rock Cafe, and Benihana. Though these places have taken a hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, the sentiment is clear: The cannabis audience is also a social audience.
So what’s the bottom line for marketers? Cannabis consumers may lead busy lives, but they are not too busy to buy quality food that fuels their days. As a result, cannabis consumers are the ideal target audience for restaurant brands looking to drive traffic and grow revenue in a post-pandemic world. Bonus: As the resident food influencer in their friend groups, they’ll even bring their crew along for the ride—a complete win-win for all parties involved.
To learn more about why marketing leaders are racing to reach cannabis consumers, download the whitepaper — Why Cannabis Audiences Are The New Gateway To Growth For Big Brands.
MRI-Simmons Cannabis Study 2020
*Originally authored for Restaurant Dive.