East Idaho ranked among top 10 fast-food growth markets

January 3, 2019

A leading foodservice trade publication has ranked Eastern Idaho among the nation’s top 10 markets poised for fast-food restaurant growth.

In December, QSR Magazine, which specializes in news affecting quick-service restaurants, ranked the area from Idaho Falls to Pocatello eighth for greatest fast-food growth potential.

The top market on the list was Yuma and El Centro, Arizona. Eastern Idaho tied with Rochester, Mason City and Austin, Minnesota, and Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota, Florida.

The magazine’s report, called “The Growth 40,” assigns each market a score factoring quick-service restaurant density, traffic growth and population growth. The calculations use data from the NPD Group, tracking consumer usage at foodservice outlets, as well as population forecasts by California-based Applied Geographic Solutions.

According to the report, East Idaho from Pocatello to Idaho Falls will experience a 16 percent increase in quick-service restaurant traffic through 2023, along with 7 percent projected population growth. The local market already has 95 quick-service restaurants for every 100,000 people, and a total of 375 quick-service restaurants.

Nick Powills, of Chicago, handles marketing for national restaurant franchises and publishes the quick-service restaurant publication 1851 Franchise. He believes the QSR Magazine rankings will raise awareness about Eastern Idaho among franchises and will provide the reassurance for interested franchisees to go forward with their plans to locate in Idaho.

“Our business represents about 100 franchise brands on the marketing side,” Powills said. “Of those, 30 percent would have larger markets in Idaho on the list of targeted growth opportunities.”

Powills said franchises recruit potential owners in desirable markets through strategies such as franchise development websites, other digital platforms and direct mailing. He anticipates the QSR report will result in several more interested franchisees launching into research about Eastern Idaho, and the state as a whole.

“From a franchisee’s inquiring standpoint, it’s a life decision,” Powills said. “Getting as much data that supports your decision is the right one helps create a calming effect and says, ‘I’m ready to move forward.’”

Powills believes the data should help local restaurant owners “protect their market” by acquiring real estate for expansions before the competition moves in. He predicts the ranking will also catch the attention of businesses outside of foodservice that may notice the positive economic signs in the anticipated population growth and increased restaurant spending.

Both Pocatello and Chubbuck have large, multi-use developments in the planning stages, and the recent QSR Magazine ranking should be welcome news to builders seeking to land commercial tenants and eateries for their projects.

Brent Dowling, CEO of Denver-based RainTree Franchise Sales, assists about 25 franchises that lack the resources to identify suitable markets for their concepts. Some of his clients, including Teriyaki Madness and Jamba Juice, have been opening new Idaho locations recently, or have started investigating the market. Dowling believes the low overhead and cost of living throughout Idaho makes the market appealing.

“A ranking like this in the right publication, like QSR, can bring awareness. It can drive a little bit of growth to the market there,” Dowling said. “These types of folks are always thinking, ‘What’s the next best market?’”

Micha Magid is the co-founder of Mighty Quinn’s, a New York-based barbecue restaurant with 10 locations, named after the chef and pit-master’s son.

“We’re known first and foremost for our food, and that’s why we’re pretty excited to bring it to new markets,” Magid said.

Magid said his company has been mulling fast-growing regions for future locations. Though his immediate plans call for continued expansion in the Northeast, he said Idaho has entered into his discussions.

“For us, it’s about finding fast-growing areas where population growth is faster than the national average,” Magid said. “(East Idaho) seems somewhat under-restauranted, given the population growth of the area.”

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