QSR Insights: Chipotle Continuing to Do Good

Chipotle is at it again, making headlines by thinking outside of the box and not just about making profits. First, it was the viral video “Back to the Start” that showcases Chipotle’s commitment to “creating a sustainable, healthful and equitable food future” through the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.

Now, in honor of Earth Day, Chipotle is offering special, reusable lunch bags for purchase from March 26th through April 14th. What’s so special about these bags? They are made from recycled Chipotle billboards. Each bag is unique as they feature different parts of the billboards on each of the bag’s side panels. This initiative will keep more than 78,000 square feet of billboard vinyl out of landfills.

These bags may seem a little pricey at $18, but purchasers will be helping out the environment and the bags also include a barcode good for a free Chipotle menu item on Earth Day (April 22).

The proceeds of these bags will go to The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which helps fund, “…initiatives that support sustainable agriculture, family farming, culinary education, and innovation that promotes better food.”

It will be interesting to see whether Chipotle will be viewed as a pioneer or remain an outlier when it comes to fast casual and QSR involvement in sustainable agriculture and other green initiatives. What do you think?

QSR Insights: Dealing With Menu Strategy and Nutrition Labeling Requirements

Due to the new health legislation that is coming into play this year, many QSRs are struggling to find a balance between representing nutritional information and maintaining their current menus.  Many fear that this new mandate, where nutritional information must be included on menus, will cause them to lose business. However, that fear appears to be unfounded as long as QSRs approach this law with the right mindset.

According to a recent QSR Magazine article and another article from Times Union, dietary practices are not really changing in markets where this law is already in effect, and if they do change, diners are ordering different things versus not ordering anything at all.

To ensure a successful transition, you must identify a menu strategy to “prioritize [your] brand’s desired business objective as it relates to the food and beverage products offered.” A strong strategy will help with communication to customers (visionary goals) and thus work toward business goals.

One aspect that is extremely critical to QSR users right now is value, as we see nearly all QSRs rushing to introduce value initiatives. This value must be a visible part of the overall menu strategy as consumers are looking for this value message, and the QSRs that deliver on the quality-to-price ratio will be more likely to succeed.

When looking at menu strategy, don’t forget the menu board itself, as this is the main consumer touchpoint. Some things to consider when evaluating a menu are:

  • Visuals – We all know a picture is worth a thousand words. Visuals grab customer’s attention.
  • Layout – The center is the sweet spot. This is the place where customers naturally look first. Typically, this is where your most popular and frequently ordered items should go.
  • Readability – Customers will read the menu, even if they are seasoned guests. The menu needs to be in an easy-to0read font and offer some open space so customers don’t get frustrated. If a menu is difficult to read, a guest won’t read it and may consider the visit a failure.
  • Colors – Colors should accentuate the food and be pleasing to the eye.
  • Information – All information should be necessary (or mandatory) for the customer’s experience.  Limit unnecessary information (see Readability).

How are you adjusting your menu strategy to address nutrition labeling requirements?

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon

QSR Insights: 2012 Restaurant Trend Predictions

The National Restaurant Association has identified some big trends that they anticipate will be hitting restaurants during the next year, according to a recent article in QSR Magazine. These trends were determined from a survey that was conducted with nearly 1,800 professional chefs in the American Culinary Federation. The survey findings show that we can expect to see an increase in locally sourced products and a focus on healthy/nutritious kids’ meals.

Neither one of those trends is new to anyone within the food industry as we’ve seen these areas grow over the years, but it looks as though they will be at an all-time high during 2012.

The locally sourced trend will focus on everything from meat and fish to fruits and vegetables to alcoholic beverages. The idea is for restaurants to support the members of their local business communities while highlighting seasonal ingredients.

Kids’ meals will focus on healthy side dish options, nutrition and whole grains. As attention to the healthiness of kids’ meals continues to grow, so does the awareness of nutrition overall. 55 percent of survey respondents said they’d offer a wider variety of healthier sides (fruits or vegetables) as a way to add more fruits/vegetables to Americans’ diets, while 19 percent said they’d add more produce to existing recipes and 16 percent would follow the MyPlate visual guideline where half the plate is used for fruits and veggies.

Many restaurants have already started to identify and work toward adopting some of these trends, but we can expect many others to jump on the local and healthy bandwagons in the very near future.

Photo credit: Natalie Maynor

QSR Insights: ‘Tis the Season for Specialty Drinks

It seems that McDonald’s is trying to give Starbucks a run for the money that exists within seasonal specialty drinks.

A recent article in QSR Magazine reports that McDonald’s has been pulling some of the coffee market share from Starbucks since the launch of McCafé and is working to maintain that trend with the launch two new McCafé flavors for the holiday season. These new flavors (McCafé Peppermint Mocha and McCafé Peppermint Hot Chocolate)—the chain’s first time ever offering specialty seasonal beverages—are scheduled to be around until January.

As part of the new launch, McDonald’s will be going on tour with their new beverages during the month of November. McDonald’s will be surprising and delighting consumers in several cities with samples of the new beverage flavors. It is obvious that this QSR giant doesn’t underestimate the power of sampling. They understand that all it takes is one sip.

This area of seasonal drinks is not new, but it is fairly untapped within the QSR industry—with the exception of Sonic Drive-In’s 2010 seasonal offering of Holiday Spiced Hot Chocolate.

However, when McDonald’s decides to try something new, they go in wholeheartedly, thus setting a standard and expectation for others to soon follow.

It will be very interesting to see how this new launch works out for McDonald’s (and Starbucks), but one should anticipate seeing new QSR competitors within this category by this time next year.  A possible New Year’s resolution for Starbucks: develop a new strategy for maintaining its place as the leader within the seasonal specialty drink arena.

QSR Insights: Kids’ Meals No Longer Just About the Toy

Remember the days when the toy from a kids’ meal was the ultimate goal, the holy grail and the reason you dragged your parents to your local fast food joint? Well, it appears that kids’ meals are no longer just about the toy. More and more QSRs are making their kids’ meals less about the toy and more educational/family focused.

While working on a new advertising campaign (minus the King), Burger King has also decided to look at a new kids’ meal program. According to a recent article in QSR Magazine, Burger King recently announced it would be making the kids’ meal more family friendly with its BK Crown Program. The update will include new packaging (including a new crown) as well as more interactive games for the whole family to participate in. The new packaging has a more educational approach by focusing more on puzzles and mazes while promoting creativity. There are three new options – Brain, City and Treehouse. Luckily for the kids, the toys are still included.

But perhaps the biggest change is the emphasis on giving back. The packaging includes a code and directs kids/families to the new BKCrown.com. Upon arriving to the site, kids can learn about giving back to causes that support the environment, wildlife conservation and education. In addition, kids can plug in the code from their kids’ meal to vote in support of one of the four selected charities: DonorsChoose.org, Have it Your Way Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association and Wildlife Conservation Society.  For each vote, one cent will be allocated to the specific charity.  This new site gives kids the opportunity to make their own decisions and to make a difference in something bigger than themselves, something that kids today value.

Time will definitely tell if this new program will work as the desire of kids to make a difference continues to grow. The success lies in the hands of the decision makers – the kids.  For now, the toy is just a bonus.