Competitive Watch

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Competitive Watch

01/02/2008
LOUISVILLE, KY -- With Americans working and partying later than ever, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are responding to the midnight munchies with extended hours, and in some cases, throwing away the "closed" sign altogether.

Taco Bell, Wendy's and Burger King all have extended hours, and many McDonald's locations are open around-the-clock, QSRWeb reported.
 
Taco Bell began its late-night program, marketed as Fourthmeal, in spring 2006, but had been extending hours as necessary for years before that, Will Bortz, spokesman for the Irvine, Calif.-based chain, told the Web site. Fourthmeal typically is considered the period between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., although some stores are open later than others.
   
Fourthmeal targets 18- to 34-year olds, and has a broad application to different people, including students, soccer moms, workers and especially young people looking to "extend the night," Bortz said. "So, if you are out later, you're coming from a concert or you're out with friends, we see it really as a big destination for our [demographic]."
 
Taco Bell doesn't release sales numbers, but described the Fourthmeal period as robust.
 
The hours between 9 p.m. and midnight account for 7 percent of all QSR sales, and that has remained steady for the last three years, noted Harry Balzer, vice president of research firm The NPD Group. He told QSRWeb that 45 percent of late-night customers dubbed their purchases as supper, while 51 percent called it a snack, and 4 percent described it as another meal, such as a lunch break.
 
Teens and young adults -- ages 13 to 24 -- are the most likely to dine at QSRs late at night. In fact, Balzer said, they're more than 50 percent more likely to visit during that period than any other time of day. The top foods ordered between 9 p.m. and midnight are carbonated soft drinks, burgers and fries, according to NPD Group data. Other likely items include ice cream, tacos, fried chicken sandwiches and pizza, he said.