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QSR Feature
The Secret in the Sauce
No one walks into a restaurant for the first time because of the mango ketchup, honey-barbecue sauce, or chipotle vinaigrette. But the condiments are often why a customer returns.
Sauces and condiments create customer loyalty for quick-serves and fast-casuals.

At Larsen’s Frostop on what was once the main drag in the now-fastest-growing city in America—St. George, Utah—car hops have delivered diners’ meals to car windows for more than 40 years. Most of those orders have carried fries (riding sidekick to Prince and Queen Burgers), and the condiment of choice has never been ketchup, but rather, tartar sauce. It’s a peculiarity of once small-town dining that allows a time-honored independent to exist in the midst of burgeoning mass-appeal chains, preserving its brand while promoting its unique character to the community it serves.

If eschewing ketchup on fries says anything about people from good pioneer stock in what was once a one-horse town (or, for that matter, preferring mayo-like frites saus at a Burger King in Rotterdam), what does a favorite condiment say about the average diner?

The Atlanta-based Association for Dressings and Sauces asked that question of 1,000 Americans, and identified salsa lovers as motivated extroverts. Hot-sauce fanciers, who are mostly men, rate themselves as more happy, ambitious, spontaneous, and risk-loving than other condiment users. Mayo mavens are most often women, half of whom shun risk-taking while the rest always grab the brass ring.

Salad dressings are also more popular with women than men, and 25 percent of women use them more than any other condiment sauce. On the whole, salad-dressing devotees tend to be younger, more reserved, and more self-disciplined than any other group. Compared to other sauce lovers, they are more likely to spend their time pursuing creative endeavors.

Men more than women tend to use and enjoy barbecue sauce. Barbecue-sauce-users describe themselves as more creative, competitive, athletic, and witty than other condiment users.

July is National Horseradish Month, good news for Atlanta-based Arby’s, which introduced its signature, and often copied, Horsey Sauce in the 1970s to accompany its roast-beef sandwiches. According to the Association of Dressings and Sauces, people who prefer horseradish to all other condiment sauces are the most family-oriented of any group, and also consider themselves more creative than other condiment connoisseurs.

In America, a case can be made for ketchup being the sole sauce that ignores division of class and status. The burger continues to be the leading entrée on all restaurant menus, while ketchup is the No. 1 condiment used with burgers. Yet mustard is the condiment that truly ties everyone together. Among those surveyed, few significant differences in mustard-liking emerge among geographic or gender lines. Mustard usage is strongest among consumers age 35 to 64 and is favored by those who consider themselves ambitious, self-disciplined, and family-oriented. Mustard-lovers also rate themselves as more shy than any other condiment-favoring group.

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