Exterior Marketing Practices of Fast-Food Restaurants

This brief examines the prevalence of advertisements on the exterior and property of fast-food restaurants. Researchers from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Bridging the Gap national program visited 2,442 chain and non-chain fast food restaurants in the spring and summer of 2010 as part of a larger study conducted in a national sample of 154 communities where students attending public middle and high schools lived. In addition to the overall prevalence of advertisements, these researchers looked at the use of price promotions and dollar menu promotions in restaurants' exterior advertisements.

As documented in the brief, they found that there were some significant differences in the prevalence of exterior advertisements not only between chains and non-chains, but also—among chain restaurants only—in the prevalence of advertisements, price promotions, and dollar menu promotions by the median household income and predominant race/ethnicity of the community.

These research findings contribute to growing evidence showing that populations at highest risk for obesity are particularly targeted through television, print, electronic media and outdoor advertisements for unhealthy, energy-dense foods.

Bridging the Gap is a nationally recognized research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation dedicated to improving the understanding of how policies and environmental factors influence diet, physical activity and obesity among youth, as well as youth tobacco use. The program identifies and tracks information at the state, community and school levels; measures change over time; and shares findings that will help advance effective solutions for reversing the childhood obesity epidemic and preventing young people from smoking. Bridging the Gap is a joint project of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Health Research and Policy and the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.