All of a sudden, Americans are very interested in rocking the a la carte life at fast food and quick service restaurants, as value menu item interest has soared in the last year. In fact, as of May when this study was conducted, for the first time since CivicScience started tracking the data, the number of people interested in value menu items has eclipsed the number of those who aren’t interested.  

Looking at year-over-year numbers (from May 2017 to May 2018, and the last 365 days), the growth in interest falls squarely on the shoulders of Generation Z and Millennials. Generation Z is 16% more interested in value menu items than they were a year ago, and Millennials 17%. Generation X is up about 8%, and Baby Boomers and older remained static in their interest.

Interest in value menu items cut across gender lines, with men and women showing a relatively equal boost year-over-year, although Millennial men showed the highest increase year-over-year at nearly 18%.

While the gut reaction may seem like Americans are interested in value menu items because they’re worried about the economy, that gut reaction would go to bed hungry.

In fact, value meal interest has gone up right alongside Americans’ views on the economy, with people who think the economy is going to get better over the next six months having a 6% higher interest in value meals year-over-year.

Of course, another gut reaction would be healthy people are shunning the fast food world, no matter how good the deals are.

Once again, that gut reaction would leave room for dessert, as people who consider themselves “very healthy” – these are people who say they have zero health issues – having the highest increase in value menu interest year-over-year at nearly 18%.

Of course, with fast food value item interest growing, there are bound to be some big winners in the space. Looking at CivicScience data, Subway and Burger King appear to be the biggest beneficiaries as of now.

To be clear: Almost all fast food / quick service restaurants have had some uptick, but these two stood out.

Americans who have a favorable view of Burger King were 14% more likely, year over year, to have a greater interest in value menu items. Subway fans were 16% more likely to be interested in value menu items.

Interest in value menu items is soaring, and while the over-55 crowd might not be part of the wave, nearly every other demographic under the sun is. It can’t be chalked up to bad feelings about the economy, and it can’t be chalked up to unhealthy people dominating the space. Perhaps it can be simply chalked up to this: Everyone likes a good deal.