Guide to researching the quick service restaurant industry

Make sure "quality" is in your research recipe.
Make sure “quality” is in your research recipe.


The purpose of this guide is to point business researchers to some key resources when researching the quick service restaurant industry. This guide contains several of the key and highly recommended resources when analyzing the industry and researching the companies in the industry. I’ve listed the databases and resources below, with recommendations on how to find the best information in the quickest fashion.

The guide starts with resources for performing an industry analysis, but don’t miss the top picks for company analysis further down the page.

For help citing the resources on this page, see the Guide to APA format.

Best Bets for Industry Analysis

The resources in this section are the best bets for analyzing the broad industry.

Encyclopedia of American Industries

If you need to know some history of an industry, the Encyclopedia of American Industries is a great resource. Just search for  “restaurants,” “fast food,” etc.  to find some excellent background of the industry.


IbisWorld is a good place to get started for a good overview of several sectors of the U.S. industry. Simply search for “restaurants”, “fast food,” etc. to find a number of different relevant reports.

First Research

First Research also offers broad industry overviews, which compliment the reports from IbisWorld quite nicely. You can find reports on “restaurants”, “fast food,” quick service restaurants,” ” and more. Many reports offer much better global coverage than IbisWorld.

Plunkett Research

Plunkett Research offers broad industry overviews and statistics.  Browse by industry to the “Restaurant, Hotel, and Hospitality” industry.


Passport some excellent market research reports on consumer products in specific countries. Passport is a great tool to use to understand the industry on a domestic and  international level.

  • The best way to search for restaurant information is to browse under industries to either Consumer Foodservice then use the “Search Tree” to browse by product category and country.
  • It is also useful in finding related company profiles, which include strategy of the companies in the industry.  (Look for Local Company Profiles or Global Company Profiles under the Analysis filter to find these quickly).
  • Passport also addresses the broad Political, Economic, Social, and Technological trends affecting industries. This video shows you how to find information from Passport GMID for your PEST analysis.


Mintel has a excellent market research reports that address the consumer side of the quick service or fast food industry.

  • Under the “Category Overview” header, browse to the “Foodservice” Sector to see the full range of market research data.
  • You might also simply use the search option for keywords relating to restaurants, quick service, or specific restaurant brand names.
  • The market research reports in Mintel cover consumer buying, demand, preferences, market drivers, and other consumer information.


Statista is great resource to find some extremely useful statistics for you industry. Simply search for “fast food,” “quick service,” etc., or by company or brand to find stats for your project.

  • Tip:  Once you find a useful statistic, look at the “Release” tab on the left side of the page to find the “Source Link,” which will lead you to the original data source and potentially more information you can use.

Business Source Complete

Business Source Complete has a lot of useful information that can take your research to the next level. I’ve listed here last not because it is the least important, but because I would us articles and reports from Business Source Complete to fill in the gaps of your research.

  • You will find Industry Profiles and Trade Publications that can enhance the broad coverage of other industry reports. Search for ”fast food” or quick service”.
  • Look for trade publications such as Nation’s Restaurant News  for excellent information written by people who are embedded in the industry.

SEC Filings

The 10-k (annual SEC filings) for individual companies in the industry contain financial information for companies, as well as textual descriptions of business strategies, risk factors, competition, and more. Look in Part 1, Item 1 and Item 1A for this information in a company’s 10-K report. You will notice that the companies use some of the similar language found in reports like IBISWorld and others.

Top Picks for Company Analysis

The following resources are particularly useful when analyzing specific companies in the industry.

Mergent Online

Mergent Online should be your first place to look for company information.

  1. Search for your company, and look at the Company Financials tab.  You can download up to 30 years of as-reported financial information for public companies.
  2. Search for your company, and look at the Competitors tab to analyze the competition.
  3. Search for your company, and look at the Reports Tab.  Click on Equity Reports to get a stock report for your company and a few of its competitors.
  4. Search for your company, and look at the Horizon tab to understand suppliers and customer relationships.
  5. On the search menu, click the Investext Snapshot tab. Search for your company to find up to three stock reports about your company.

This video demonstrates how to find the most-essential information quickly in Mergent Online.


OneSource is another fantastic resource for both company and industry information.

Hoover’s Online

Hoover’s Online has great company and industry information.

  • Use the Company tab to search for a particular company to find company financials, competitors, company news, and more.
  • Use the Industry Tab to search for your industry terms to find some excellent industry reports. The industry data comes from First Research, which is the same information found via the First Research interface.

S&P Net Advantage

S&P NetAdvantage is  also a great tool for researching companies.


Privco is an excellent resource to use when trying to find information about privately held companies.


Factiva is a great resource for looking for news about companies in the industry. You will also find company profiles, financials, ratios, and more in the “Companies & Markets” section of Factiva. This video shows you how to use Factiva effectively when analyzing your company.


In LexisNexis, use the “Get Company Information” search box to search for company information. In addition to company financial information, you will find company news, company organization and subsidiary information, and company legal/lawsuit information.


Related Topics: Business Cluster, Class Guides, Industry Guides