Copycat fast casual restaurants: consumer response of Dublin professionals 25 - 39

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Brewer, Audrey
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MSc in Marketing
Dublin Business School
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The fast casual market in Ireland is growing at a rate three times that of other restaurant categories. It is especially popular with young professionals age 25 - 39, representing more than 1/3 of their food spend. As the market expands, many Dublin restaurateurs have adopted a shorthand approach to capitalize on existing restaurant brands. These "copycat" restaurants take concepts, menus and trade dress from leader brands outside Ireland, often to commercial success. By using a mixed quantitative and qualitative approach, this research aims to explore Irish consumer perception and patronage of five Dublin copycat restaurants, further negotiating this with consumer evaluation of authenticity. 272 questionnaire responses were evaluated then phenomenologically assessed through indepth interviews, seeking to explain socioeconomic and cultural factors that contributed to this feedback. Results indicate a generally positive acceptance towards the copycatting trend in Ireland, while still evaluating the control original brand as better. In this context, a moderate similarity approach appears to work best when the leader brand is not present. Respondents did not have an overall negative view of copycats, and even fewer reported a desire to stop visiting such restaurants when informed about them. Interviews further investigated the regulatory, economic and cultural underpinnings for this acceptance, suggesting this response is dictated by contextual factors unique to the Irish commercial landscape.