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Thumb_HappyMeal_ChickenMcNuggetsHappyMeal (1).jpg Photo courtesy of McDonald's
Chicken McNugget Happy Meal

Apparently Gen Alpha really likes McDonald’s

A new report shows that McDonald’s received 37% of responses from Gen Alpha parents when asked if their kids had a favorite restaurant, more than triple the next brand.

The great Wayne Gretzky once said, “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

According to, well, much of society, that anticipated destination has been defined as Generation Alpha. This demographic cohort is the first to be born entirely in the 21st century, with a birth parameter of 2010 to 2024. There are more than 2.5 million Gen Alpha children born globally every week and by the time their boundary is solidified, they will number nearly 2 billion people – the largest generation in the history of the world.

Their spending power is also expected to reach historic levels. A new study from Bain & Company finds that Gen Alpha’s spending is forecasted to grow three times faster than other generations by 2030. Indeed, they’re already flexing their power, as 87% of their parents say their “Alpha kids” influence their purchases.

That includes restaurant purchases. According to a new Morning Consult study, “A Brand’s Guide to Gen Alpha,” more than 80% of parents of 5-to-12-year-olds say their kids ask for a specific restaurant “often” or “sometimes.” Their clear favorite is McDonald’s. The quick-service giant received 37% of responses from Gen Alpha parents when asked if their kids had a favorite restaurant.

This response rate far outpaced “none” for the second answer, with 14%. Seven percent of Gen Alpha parents mentioned pizza places, divided among brands like Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa Johns. Otherwise, Chick-fil-A received 6% of responses, while Wendy’s received 3%, and Taco Bell received 2%.

“When seeking to connect with Gen Alpha, brands can look to established leaders like McDonald’s … Not only does [the brand] have decades of experience catering to families’ needs, but they’ve also managed to maintain relevance and make a connection with Gen Alpha already,” the report states.

How do other brands make that connection? For starters, Gen Alpha has been and will continue to be immersed in advanced technology. A digital world is all they know; more than half of Alphas have their own tablets, for instance, while 84% live in households with a video game console. They get their entertainment from streaming platforms, creators who leverage those platforms, and, increasingly, virtual reality technology.

Meanwhile, Gen Alpha parents are focused on healthier eating habits, including limiting sugar intake. Thirty-six percent said it is “very important” to limit quick-service food intake; however, 43% said their kids eat at a QSR at least weekly, which is more than the average adult. As Morning Consult’s report notes, “it’s all a balance for Gen Alpha parents.”

Further, Gen Alpha parents are more likely to order takeout weekly versus all U.S. adults; however they dine in at a restaurant weekly the same amount as the general public.

“Gen Alpha parents have no shortage of ways to source restaurant foods to alleviate the pressure of their busy schedules. The frequency of Alphas’ dining-out occasions creates plenty of opportunities for them to weigh in on decisions, so brands with a winning strategy will appeal to all parties,” the report notes.

Finally, nearly one-third of Gen Alpha parents don’t eat the same food at dinner as their children – a shift from previous generations who enjoyed family-style dinners more frequently.

“Understanding the reasons parents and Alphas eat different foods, and what that means for how they prepare and serve dinner, can help brands create relevant, targeted new products, messages, and recipes that cater to families’ wants and needs,” according to the report.

As brands currently scramble to find the sweet spot for Gen Z consumers – and for good reason – they’re also wise to keep a sharp eye on what’s next – Gen Alpha, where the puck is going.  

As the parent of a Gen Alpha, I have a ton of personal anecdotal support behind this research. We order takeout more often than I’d like to admit. We order MrBeast Burgers every now and then because that’s one of his favorite creators. We became IHOP loyalty members when the chain announced its collaboration with Xbox.

Perhaps most notably, my child begs us to stop at McDonald's for a McNugget Happy Meal after every hockey practice (hence the Gretzky reference). There are three on the way home, so it's not inconvenient, which he also likes. And, we happen to live in the Louisville, Kentucky, market, where the company is testing the sale of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, so we’ll grab some of those on occasion. It's like a culinary Disneyworld for him.

That said, I don’t think he understands “brand loyalty” quite yet. In fact, I heard him repeatedly singing Burger King’s “Whopper Whopper” song just this week, so opportunities abound at capturing his and his peers' attention. 

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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