QSR Insights: Falling Head Over Heels For Fall Flavors

As we enter the autumn months and the leaves begin to fall, customers begin looking to the QSRs for their favorite fall treats. The emergence of fall themed menu items has increased over the past years with pumpkin, apple and cinnamon dominating the fall palate.

Pumpkin Spice Latte is now a perennial fall favorite.

While apple is often associated with the fall season, more recently pumpkin-flavored everything has become the new favorite. According to research firm Technomic’s MenuMonitor, in August through November of last year, the country’s 250 largest chains introduced 105 pumpkin-themed limited-time offers, more than twice as many as the 45 apple items they put on the menu.

Starbucks brought back its Pumpkin Spice Latte for the 10th consecutive year this fall. McDonald’s has jumped aboard adding a Pumpkin Spice Latte to their latte menu and pumpkin pie to its dessert menu. Other QSR chains have followed suit: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts added a pumpkin cheesecake doughnut to its fall menu and Einstein Bros. bagels introduced a whole pumpkin line. We’re even seeing pumpkin ales and whiskeys growing in popularity.

Furthermore, the comeback of these fall flavors has become quite the event. For example, Krispy Kreme teased the two seasonal doughnuts on its Pinterest page two weeks before the items were available in stores.  We see this big buildup for these fall treats and the great disappointment when they disappear again. So what is it about that pumpkin flavor that people crave during the fall?  For one, pumpkin is a symbol of fall nostalgia and pumpkin flavor simply gets customers in the fall spirit.  The limited time only offering also has a great appeal.  Customers know that their favorite fall flavors won’t be around forever, which only fuels their desire to indulge in some pumpkin treats.

So how can a QSR make its pumpkin item different than all the others out there? Make it special. Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has a truly devoted fan base and they accomplished this by  making the PSL a big deal. The chain lured consumers in by giving them a secret code, which allowed them to order a Pumpkin Spice Latte before its official release. Starbucks even created a $150 tumbler Swarovski crystals; they made 600  of the cups and sold out in 100 minutes. The PSL has its own Facebook page, is dominating Instagram and trending on Twitter: #PSL. Needless to say, the Pumpkin Spice Latte will be a hit for Starbucks again this year, assuming it doesn’t experience another shortage of product like last year.

Photo credit: Lorraine.

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