Observers of modern consumer trends have noted that traditional fast food in the mold of McDonald’s faces an uncertain future. Millennials, who are generally considered to care more about the healthfulness and origin of their food than previous generations, are often pointed to as a cause of fast food’s decline. Other writers look at the “fast casual” trend – exemplified by restaurants offering food with the convenience of fast food but with higher quality and at a slightly higher price point – as a major thorn in the side of fast food.
To be sure, fast food restaurants have made changes in the past few years that seem to indicate their old business model is in peril. McDonald’s has adopted self-serve kiosks and mobile ordering to speed up the customer experience, multiple fast-food chains have moved towards more natural ingredients, and Chick-fil-A, as well as McDonald’s, have rolled out mobile food trucks to bring their food to consumers.
Now, it appears that the fast-food industry is facing another change. Amazon is a company that has disrupted or threatened to disrupt bookstores, big-box retailers, car sales websites, and even alcohol delivery. At least one fast-food industry executive is starting to worry that Amazon could affect their business, as well.
Sonic CEO Cliff Hudson told Business Insider, “Amazon is going to try and figure out … how to use their customer engagement, customer knowledge, and distributions to encroach on anyone’s business they can.”
Hudson and others are looking at Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and partnership with delivery service Olo. Amazon has already decreased Whole Foods’ prices and has pledged to cut them further; the store has in recent years stocked more prepared foods in addition to its natural and organic grocery operations.
According to Business Insider, the increased prevalence of online shopping (both for groceries and prepared meals) means that consumers are even less likely to grab a meal-to-go from a fast food establishment. Sonic is trying to beat the trends by debuting a new app as well as a mobile order-and-pay feature tailored to the “drive-in” model.