According to YPulse’s WE Food Shopping and Trends Report, fast food is European Gen Z and Millennials’ preferred dining experience, with 91% reporting that they have eaten at a fast food place at least once in the past month. But which fast food restaurants are young Europeans’ favorites, and what makes them so appealing to these young consumers? In our WE Food and Shopping Trends survey, we asked Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe to tell us what their favorite restaurants / fast food chains are*. Here are the top 15 brands they mentioned:
McDonald’s is young Europeans’ favorite fast food brand
According to YPulse’s research, McDonald’s is the most popular fast food restaurant among European Gen Z and Millennials, many of whom mention the affordable prices and delicious flavors of the brand with the yellow arch. McDonald’s dominates young people’s affinity in the fast food industry: it’s the top choice of young consumers in all five countries YPulse surveys in Western Europe (U.K., France, Germany, Spain, and Italy), and by a significant margin. The same trend can be seen across the Atlantic: McDonald’s is the favorite fast food restaurant for young consumers in North America, too.
McDonald’s has a special place in the hearts of young Europeans, who grew up witnessing the expansion of the brand in the region. We asked our respondents to explain why they like their favorite fast food restaurant as an open-end question, and a 30-year-old male in France describes his special relationship with McDonald’s as “I’ve loved it since I was little.” McDonald’s is a brand that has the potential to tap into young consumers’ appeal to nostalgia marketing, and it’s no coincidence McDonald’s rolled out a limited-edition Happy Meal for adults last autumn in the U.S. When young consumers in the U.K. learned that the adult Happy Meal wasn’t coming to the country, they turned to Twitter to express their disappointment, with one user even describing the news as “devastating.”
American brands dominate the fast food market in Western Europe…
Among the top 15 fast food chains that young Europeans favor, 10 were founded in the U.S., underscoring the dominance of American brands in this industry. YPulse has long told you how young Europeans love American brands, and that they are their favorite brands overall. American brands are also the ones they feel a sense of community around as well as being those with the highest YPulse+ score. Meanwhile, YPulse’s research shows that more than four in five European Gen Z and Millennials have bought from an American brand. With that in mind, it’s no surprise to see so many American brands dominating the list of young Europeans’ favorite fast food restaurants.
Burger King—young Europeans’ second favorite fast food brand—has been active recently to gain affinity among young consumers in the region. In France, the brand has been using many attention-grabbing marketing schemes to reach young consumers, from launching a TikTok challenge to find its new voice to sending mean texts to customers—for a good cause, though. Its latest campaign turned a classic question about burgers into an ad: the spot includes a group of friends comparing their views on burgers from McDonald’s, Five Guys, KFC, and—you guessed it—Burger King. And more American fast food brands are planning to expand into Western Europe: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen started its European expansion two years ago with the opening of stores in the U.K. and Spain, and now the brand is planning to open 300 restaurants in France by 2030. Meanwhile, US burger chain Black Tap is planning to open its first restaurant in London this summer, and Shake Shack is continuing its expansion in the U.K. with the opening of a new store in south London.
…but these consumers also like fast-food brands from other countries
It should be noted that not all of the top 15 fast food brands are American. In fact, a third are not, meaning that young Europeans also appreciate fast food brands from other regions. Take the example of Nando’s, a grilled chicken fast food restaurant originally started in South Africa. The brand is going all out on TikTok right now, and is British Gen Z and Millennials’ second favorite fast food brand, even before KFC. Other fast food restaurants that were started in Western Europe countries and are young Europeans’ favorites are Quick (Belgium), Telepizza (Spain), Old Wild West (Italy), and Foster’s Hollywood (Spain).
*This was an open-end response question to allow us to capture the full range of chain restaurants that 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe say are their favorites—without our preconceived ideas shaping their responses. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most popular. The list is ordered according to the number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.