QSRs Move Toward More Flavorful Options

Dining at a QSR isn’t about fuel anymore—it’s about experience. Customers are continuing to look for more adventurous menu options that are unique, inspiring and bring the heat. Subway, Taco Bell and Sonic are just a few of the companies that are listening to their customers and spicing things up.

Sriracha is the "hot" new condiment for QSRsThis week, Subway introduced the new Sriracha Chicken Melt and Sriracha Steak Melt, both topped with a creamy Sriracha sauce. The incorporation of the much beloved condiment helps to shake up Subway’s sandwich lineup.

This isn’t the first move toward spicier options for QSRs. Earlier this year, Taco Bell introduced its latest Doritos Locos Taco: Fiery, and Sonic added some more flavorful offerings to their sandwiches and burgers with the new Island Fire lineup. These menu items are tapping into the growing food trend of kicking up the heat that Millennials crave.

According to Food Fanatics Food Trend Tracker, this winter shows a shift toward South American and Southeast Asian dining trends. These foods are typically spice-based, right on target with the flavors consumers are seeking out, specifically flavors like Sriracha. In addition to that, QSRs are keeping an eye on theHeatSync index. Developed by Kalsec, Inc. in partnership with Mintel, the index tracks the usage of different peppers in the US and Europe and shows the increase in popularity of hot peppers used in consumer goods.

Traditionally the progression of a food trend has been a trickle-down effect from high-end dining, to fast casual, then finally to QSRs. With this new trend of hot and spicy food, there seems to be more of a trickle-up effect.  QSRs alone are leading menu innovation, instead of just jumping on the food trend bandwagon.

By watching general industry trends, QSRs can proactively create menu options that are more desirable than their fast-casual counterparts, allowing them to be the first to deliver on the experience and menu offerings people want.

Sriracha is the flavor of the moment, but consumers are constantly looking for the next big thing. So when looking toward future menu items think about:

  • Tracking food trends so your business can be more proactive during product development.
  • Look at past food trends to help predict future trends or flavor returns.
  • Take a look at your own menu to see where some menu items can be replaced with more tantalizing options.
Photo credit: Memphis CVB

How Instagram Can Help QSRs with Marketing

Taco Bell on InstagramFood is an extremely visual experience. Even if something tastes good, we know that if it doesn’t have appetite appeal, it can completely halt trial.

Restaurant marketers are notoriously protective of they way their food is portrayed in photos. So it’s no surprise when restaurant brands first started having a social presence, content was simply repurposed from other traditional media. Many would use perfect-looking POP images and post them in social media. Thankfully now, many QSRs embrace real-life, or at least seemingly real, imagery. These new images are being taken at actual restaurants with a smartphone, not in a photography studio after perfectly crafting and lighting the shot for hours. These new photos are more relatable and often are closer to the real customer experience, allowing for a more authentic exchange with the brand’s social community.

Instagram is a popular photo-sharing app that allows users to take a picture, add a filter, and share it either on directly on Instagram or across other social channels. Many brands, QSRs included, have jumped on to this trend to show off their products in a new and different way. Currently there are more than 130 million active users on Instagram, with an estimated 59% of brands utilizing the platform. There are over one billion daily likes and over 45 million photos are shared each day.

Some of the top food brands on Instagram include Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts. These brands aim to capture a different, more personal side of their brand that customers can connect with. With the ability to add filters to images, the subject of the photo can take on different moods, thus helping to transform a picture of a burger or cup of coffee into a work of art.

McDonald's on InstagramInstagram allows brands to enhance their overall image and sentiment with product offerings and promote core values visually. Brands can curate content ranging from loosely brand-related to product-specific. By incorporating Instagram along with other social platforms, QSRs have the ability to show a completely different side of their brand to their established customers as well as potential customers through sharing via other social channels. These images can also be used as content on the brand’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.

QSRs can even see what fans are taking pictures of by using a tool like Statigram to track hashtags. This is another valuable way to see what your customers are photographing and sharing with their own followers on their social channels.

Some key takeaways:

  • Instagram allows brands to engage with users in a unique and personal way that helps to enhance online presence and strengthen social community.
  • Through Instagram, brands can drive traffic to other websites and social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc.).
  • Hashtags can be used to help brands gain higher search results and stay relevant in fan conversations.

Additional Author Credit: Stephanie Castro


Simply Measured


McDonald’s on Facebook

Taco Bell on Facebook

Taco Bell and Doritos: A Collaboration Made in Late Night Heaven

The latest in the line of Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco BellIt seems like an eternity since the release of the first Doritos Locos Taco premiered at Taco Bell the spring of 2012. It was like flirting with a new crush. The brief first meeting, the teasing that you may see them again soon, and finally you two ride off into the sunset together and live happily ever after. This is pretty much what happened with the original Doritos Locos Taco; a Cheesy Nacho taco shell filled with Taco Bell’s standard taco fillings. What made this partnership so successful is that both brands are targeting the same demographic with the stance that Doritos and Taco Bell are “social food,” the partnership continued to evolve and Taco Bell listened to what their fans wanted.

Taco Bell’s current “Live Mas” campaign drives this social experience home when it comes to late night cravings. What is better after a night out on the town than to grab some of your favorite chips or a late night taco? Taco Bell and Doritos created a partnership that brought these two food favorites together and changed the QSR world forever. At first, the Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco was introduced. Soon after there were demands for another Doritos shell: Cool Ranch. When it was officially announced a few months later, Taco Bell and Doritos fans rejoiced and thought the brand partnership had reached its pinnacle.

Then came the announcement this past summer that another Locos Taco would be making its debut on Aug. 22nd: Fiery. Taco Bell listened to fans when creating the new shell. Fans wanted something spicy and highly seasoned. This third new flavor of shell being added only strengthens the future of the Locos taco.

Fan favorites may play a role in the selection of new Locos Tacos flavors.The three main things that made this collaboration successful were:

  1. Having the same target audience
  2. Continuing to wow said audience with new products
  3. Taco Bell listened to what their fans wanted and they delivered in a timely manner.

The continuation of the partnership is key. Brand partnerships help to create new, innovative ideas and continue to breathe new life into two established brands while surprising fans and critics alike. Who knows when either party will have enough of the other, or if fans may demand that each Locos taco stay on the menu permanently? For now, it looks like there will be a new Locos taco making an appearance every nine months or so. Rest easy Doritos and Taco Bell fans—the Locos taco will not be disappearing soon.

Photo credit: Taco Bell and Food Digital

QSR Insights: Burger King Adds Non-Traditional Burgers to Menu

Beef, chicken and pork consumption in the United States has been declining for the past 20 years, and one QSR in particular is responding to the trend.

This week, Burger King unveiled its new spring 2013 menu. Two of the items include non-traditional burgers: turkey and veggie.

According to the Huffington Post, BK is serving a “fire-grilled” turkey burger and MorningStar veggie burgers.

Though, not all of Burger King’s 2013 additions are geared toward consumers who are trying to be healthier. Burger King has also included the Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Burger, a slew of chipotle items including a Chipotle Whopper, Chipotle Jr. Whopper and a Chipotle Tendercrisp Chicken sandwich, which can also be a wrap.

With these new, seasonal additions to the menu, Burger King can expect a reaction from new and loyal fans alike. It seems that a traditional QSR like BK is finally in line with current food trends.

Burger King has set a new precedent with the turkey and veggie Burgers. The partnership with MorningStar Farms is especially great PR for the brand and now aligning itself with other healthy QSR’s such as Subway. In past years Burger King has featured a Veggie Burger on the menu in select markets, but the MorningStar Farms burger patty is a first.

It will be interesting to see if other fast food giants follow Burger King’s seasonal shift toward alternative burgers rather than the same old salad and iced tea.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons