When QSR magazine released its list of top 50 quick service and fast casual chains last year, industry behemoth McDonald’s unsurprisingly sat atop that list. Having served billions and billions of consumers worldwide, McDonald’s 2013 sales in the U.S. were more than double that of second place competitor Subway, intimating that consumers still have an appetite for the Golden Arches. However, consumer tastes and lifestyles are changing, with words like “natural,” “organic,” and “fresh” landing onto competitor’s menus – and onto consumers’ plates. While the movement toward healthier and more responsible living has been a boon to some quick service chains, sales at McDonald’s are consistently suffering.
With this trend in mind, I shuffled the positions of QSR’s top 10 restaurants, re-ranking these establishments not by overall sales, but by the lifestyle choices their patrons make, courtesy of the syndicated insights Prosper collects. This new healthy lifestyle index reflects consumers’ propensity toward healthy activities (such as regular exercise, watching calorie, carbohydrate, fat, and/or sodium intake, etc.), consideration of the healthy options on restaurants’ menus, and overall happiness with one’s health. While McDonald’s didn’t end up at the very bottom of the list (surprise!), it’s clear that some of the more traditional fast food chains are clearly not attracting customers of the “new healthy” mindset. Among QSR’s top 10 restaurants, Starbucks (#1), Subway (#2), and Chick-fil-A (#3) are leading this charge, while Dunkin’ Donuts and Wendy’s (tied, #4) round out the new top five. Pizza Hut (#6), Taco Bell (#7), McDonald’s (#8), KFC (#9) follow with Burger King (#10) landing at the bottom of the list.
What’s interesting about this ranking is that age doesn’t seem to be a clear driver of a healthy lifestyle (so perhaps we can’t attribute every trend to Millennials). While Starbucks (#1) caters to younger than average patrons, Taco Bell (#7) does as well; KFC (#9) and Subway (#2) tend to attract older customers. However, it appears that income plays a role in consumers’ penchants for healthy living with customer incomes of the top five chains in our new list tracking above average.
Within the chart above, I’ve also listed two of the components that went into the development of our healthy lifestyle indicator, tendencies to exercise regularly and watch calorie intake. Starbucks patrons, for example, are 33% more likely than average to engage in physical activity at least three times a week, while Chick-fil-A customers are 31% more prone to counting calories. And although Taco Bell enthusiasts index above average for each of these two items, this group’s overall ranking was hampered by their (lack of) consideration for healthy menu items as well as some of our other measures of healthy activities.
And where do two of the industry’s biggest disruptors, Panera Bread and Chipotle, stand? While placing just beyond QSR’s top 10 in 2014 (at #11 and #15, respectively), if included in our healthy lifestyle ranking, these restaurants would place at the top of the heap. Panera customers scored a healthy lifestyle rating of 156, while Chipotle patrons indexed at 134…how about that for a glimpse of fast food’s future?
This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.