Bloomin’ Brands Struggles in Quarter, as Chain Restaurants Face New Chef-Inspired Concepts

November 9, 2015

Justine Griffin
© 2015 Tampa Bay Times

While the “anti-chain” movement across the U.S. isn’t new, it is slowing down sales at some of the best known restaurant brands, including Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill. Bloomin’ Brands, the Tampa parent of Outback and Carrabba’s, is the most muscular restaurant company in Tampa Bay with $4.4 billion in revenue last year and 1,500 restaurants worldwide. But it’s anything but local to consumers here.

The company on Tuesday reported disappointing sales for the third quarter for most of its brands. CEO Liz Smith said casual dining as a segment in the hospitality industry was down from July to September, not just at their in-house brands.
“We knew the trends would be challenged,” Smith said. “And our marketing didn’t break through as expected.”

Bonefish Grill, which was intended to be the engine powering new growth for Bloomin’ Brands’ restaurant portfolio this year, saw the steepest declines, with sales down 6.1 percent for the quarter and traffic down 8.5 percent. It’s the second quarter of decline for Bonefish, which is in a competitive class of “polished casual” chain restaurants, and tends to be more pricey than dining experiences like a TGI Fridays or Olive Garden. The menu quality is more on par with restaurants like Seasons 52 or Carmel Cafe.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill reported a decline in the quarter of 2 percent sales and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar saw a 0.6 percent drop.

Outback Steakhouse, which performed well in new international markets like Brazil, was the only brand to report modest growth, at 0.1 percent, this quarter.

Chain restaurants are struggling to meet the changing trends fueled by younger demographics in the U.S., said Darren Tristano, executive vice president with Technomic, a restaurant research firm in Chicago.

“These are the same issues that most casual dining restaurants face today,” Tristano said. “Bloomin’ is no different than Darden” — the Orlando parent of Olive Garden and several other chains — “and most others in this regard.”

Another blow landed this summer when Bloomin’ Brands lost a bid to open an Outback Steakhouse and a Bonefish Grill in Tampa International Airport after $953 million in terminal renovations. The aviation authority board sought to make the airport’s restaurants feel more local, and one board member noted the company’s widely located chains made it feel less so. The Carrabba’s in the main terminal, which opened in 2008, is slated to close next spring.

Millennials and generation X-ers look for value but tend to try locally owned or chef-inspired restaurants rather than a chain, so it’s difficult for the casual dining chain restaurant to stand out in what’s become a very competitive market, Tristano said.

“It’s hard for chains to add more regional flavors to a menu, like local craft beer or local food options that the independent restaurants can do so easily,” he said. “They need to be more innovative and focus on the strengths that they do have, which usually is price, to get the attention of this next generation customer.”

Outback Steakhouse will roll out a new mobile phone app next year, which the restaurant chain has been testing in Tampa Bay. Through the app, customers can add their names to the wait list before they arrive at a restaurant, place take out orders and use to pay at the table.

“We will continue to invest in this kind of innovative tech platforms,” Smith said during Tuesday’s earnings call.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill will debut a simpler menu next year. Fewer items will be available, but the chain will add a new small plates category for tapas-style sharing at the table. Bloomin’ also changed the menu at Bonefish Grill earlier this year, with the same “less is more” theme.

“Too much on the menu overwhelms the customer,” Tristano said.

It also keeps food costs down, said Brian Connors, with Connors Davis Hospitality, a restaurant consulting firm in South Florida.

“Chains are the safe choice. Customers know what they’re going to get there and the restaurants know what they’re good at,” Connors said.

Bloomin’ Brands plans to continue to expand aggressively in new international markets like Korea and China. Much of the company’s growth has come from international openings this year.

“They don’t have to reinvent the wheel this way,” Connors said. But in this country, he suggested, they’ll need to come up with something new to keep attracting diners.

“We’ve entered this new age of adventure eating. Food recipes is one of the highest pinned categories on Pinterest,” Connors said. “People are willing and wanting to try something new.”

Bloomin’s brands: Tough quarter for sales
U.S. sales in the last four quarters
BrandQ3Q2Q1Q4 (2014)
Outback Steakhouse0.1 %4%5%6.4%
Carrabba’s Italian Grill- 2%2%1.9%0.3%
Bonefish Grill- 6.1%-4.6%0.9%0.7%
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar- 0.6%3.2%3.0%3.4%
Source: Bloomin’ Brands

How 10 Food Trends for 2016 Will Transform Restaurants

November 2, 2015

2015 LLC™ All Rights Reserved

At this point a couple years ago, if you asked a restaurant executive how she might user Uber to build sales, she might have guessed as a prefix for the name of her brand’s Oktoberfest-theme burger. But now, Uber and Postmates are just two of the sharing-economy apps rapidly transforming foodservice and shaking up consumers’ expectations everywhere.
Going into 2016, there are dozens of similar forces shifting the ground beneath restaurants, and most of them are far beyond what brands have the power to control. While they are hard to predict, even for a data-rich firm like Technomic, they are easy to identify and understand, because they all spring from evolving consumer demand. Major moves from the biggest restaurant companies—McDonald’s moving its food supply toward more cage-free eggs, for example—aren’t dictated solely by the bottom line. They’re dictated by what consumers need from foodservice brands.

Technomic just released its 10 major food trends for 2016 with this dynamic in mind. Because consumers are the impetus behind all the upheaval, take a look at each trend and see how many of them you’re driving with your own dining out preferences.

The Sriracha Effect: This hot sauce from Thailand will continue to grow in popularity, but the “effect” Technomic predicts is that chefs and chain restaurant executives will search for the next hot ethnic flavor to find lightning in a bottle again. Early indications are that this will drive more use of and consumer interest in ghost pepper from India, sambal from Southeast Asia, gochujang from Korea, and harissa, sumac and dukka from North Africa.

The Delivery Revolution: Popular apps that simplify online and mobile ordering making “dining in” even easier and, in some cases, “dining out” irrelevant. Delivery services like GrubHub are starting to proliferate far beyond urban centers, bringing the convenience of a restaurant meal home, where plenty of people are likely camping out in front of the TV to binge-watch a season or two on Netflix. Other services are muscling in, including the aforementioned Uber and Amazon, which is expanding its Prime Fresh memberships for grocery delivery.

One particular threat to restaurants could be app-only services like Munchery, which delivers restaurant-quality food from a commissary, cutting out brick-and-mortar restaurants completely.

Negative on GMOs: In some cases, consumers have made up their minds before scientists have reached consensus, but many restaurant customers are declaring genetically modified organisms to be nonstarters. Many diners will agree with calls for labels of GMOs on menus and food packaging; some will go further and gravitate toward restaurants that advertise a GMO-free menu. That will be a major issue for the nation’s food supply, since many crops—particularly soy fed to livestock and other animal feeds—have been modified to boost their yields and productivity.

Modernizing the Supply Chain: Speaking of the supply chain, it already has enough challenges to deal with, including climate destabilization, rising costs for transportation and shipping, and pests. These will cause frequent repeats of shortages similar to those witnessed in 2015, like the unseasonable freeze that decimated Florida’s orange crop or the egg shortage that resulted from avian flu. Those hurdles will proliferate while more and more consumers demand food that is “fresh,” “local,” or just free of additives and artificial ingredients. Every brand, from restaurants to grocery stores and convenience stores, will make big investments in supply chain management in 2016.

Year of the Worker: Restaurants will also contend with rising labor costs, because of new mandates to cover full-time staff with health insurance and because the minimum wage could increase sharply depending on the state or city where they’re located. Pressure groups will ratchet up their call for a $15-per-hour wage, and they could possibly succeed in more cities like they have in New York and Seattle. Don’t expect any changes to the federal wage floor of $7.25 per hour, because no cooperation between a Democratic White House and a Republican Congress is possible, especially in an election year.
How will restaurants respond? Most will raise their wages to either comply with a new law or to compete for the best staff—but that means menu prices are going up as well, everywhere from fast food to fine dining. Also, more brands will experiment with technology and automation in the kitchens and the dining rooms to do more with fewer employees.

Fast Food Refresh: Consumers gravitate to “better” quick-service restaurants, which has transformed the industry. That has created a subset of “QSR-Plus” concepts with fresher menus and more contemporary designs, which exploits a price threshold between fast food and fast casual. Culver’s, Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burger are examples of this. “Build-your-own” menus are springing up across the industry, and many quick-service brands are adding amenities like alcohol.
QSR-Plus also helps other restaurants clarify their positioning by giving up their attempt to go upscale in a piecemeal approach, and those chains instead are returning to their roots with simplified menus and lower prices.

Elevating Peasant Fare: The popularity of street foods and consumers’ demand for portability and affordability have put things like meatballs, sausages and even breads back in the spotlight. But this time, those meatballs might have a nouveau twist, such as a blend of fancier meats like duck or lamb. Multiethnic dumplings will also continue to grow in popularity, from Eastern European pierogi to Asian bao.

Trash to Treasure: Rising prices for proteins will raise the profile of underused cuts of meat, organ meats or “trash fish.” The “use it all” mindset has also moved beyond the center of the plate. Some restaurants will use carrot pulp from the juicer to make a veggie burger patty, and perhaps other chains will follow the lead of Sweetgreen, which last year partnered with celebrity chef Dan Barber to make the wastED Salad, an entrée that saves vegetable scraps like broccoli stalks and cabbage cores and combines them with upscale ingredients like shaved Parmesan and pesto vinaigrette.

Let them eat kale stems!

Burned: Smoke and fire are showing up everywhere on the menu—smoky is the new spicy. Look for more charred- or roasted-vegetable sides, desserts with charred fruits or burnt-sugar toppings, or cocktails featuring smoked salt, smoked ice or smoky syrups.

Bubbly: Effervescence makes light work of the trendiest beverages. Technomic expects rapid sales growth of Champagnes and Proseccos, Campari-and-soda aperitifs, and adults-only “hard” soft drinks like ginger ales and root beers. In the nonalcoholic space, sales will also increase for fruit-based artisanal soda and sparkling teas.

Snacking and Healthier Options are on the Rise

October 30, 2015

pictureSnacking is a growing trend and consumers are snacking more frequently. About half of today’s consumers (51 percent) say they eat snacks at least twice a day and 31 percent say they’re snacking more frequently than they were two years ago.

According to Technomic, Americans also are broadening their definition of a snack to encompass a wider range of foods and beverages.

Smoothies are they a snack or a meal? According to Vitamix and ORC International, 59 percent is snack, 25 percent is part of a meal and 18 percent meal.

“Snacking occasions represent a growth channel for restaurant operators. The retail market is aggressively promoting snacks, but there’s plenty of room for restaurants to expand their snack programs and grab share. By providing more innovative, healthy and easily portable snacks, and boosting variety, restaurants can position themselves to increase incremental traffic and sales –particularly among a younger customer base.” Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic.

In an article by WholeFoods Magazine called “Healthy Snacking on the Rise in the US” this article reports that more Americans are snacking more than ever before – but are also make smarter snacking choices. In a recent survey taken, 33% of the survey population is snacking on healthier foods than they were last year. This number has steadily risen with time, and is something that only stands to increase with nearly a third of all parents surveyed mentioning that they are serving healthier snacks to their children.

What a great opportunity for any restaurant, café, juice or smoothie bar to take advantage of this growing trend. Now more than ever it is important to offer customers what they want and that is healthier options.

The healthy trend is also dominating menus. Gone are the days of serving only indulgent foods or offering calorie laden menu items. The most prominent industry buzzword over that last decade is healthy which appears in various forms on today’s menus. This change has been inspired by the growing public awareness of healthy attributes in food and consumers are leaning on restaurants to go beyond adding a side salad to create a healthy meal.

Has America FINALLY hit ‘peak pumpkin’?

October 28, 2015

pumpkinKatie Little
© 2015 CNBC LLC. All Rights Reserved. A Division of NBCUniversal

More than a decade after Starbucks helped make “pumpkin spice latte” a household name, there is some evidence that “peak pumpkin” may finally be coming to restaurants.

The country’s 500 biggest restaurants launched just 45 pumpkin flavored limited-time offerings, such as Dairy Queen’s Pumpkin Pie Blizzard Cake or Krispy Kreme’s Pumpkin Spice Doughnut, from January to September. That’s down 61 percent from 116 a year ago, according to data from Technomic.

“Although many consumers are still interested in pumpkin spice, recent years have shown heavy saturation with beverages and although the flavor is likely here to stay, the growth of the trend is starting to flatten showing we have reached maturity,” wrote Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic, in an email.

Overall promotions are shrinking as well, falling 11 percent as operators adopt a “less is more” attitude borrowed from fast-casual restaurant hits like Shake Shack and Chipotle.

“Brands are starting to discover the fact that consumers are experiencing new menu burnout,” Tristano wrote. “This year marked the first year in a decade that top chain restaurant menus declined in total menu offering.”

At the retail level, growth is also showing signs of slowing.

For the year ending July 26, sales of pumpkin-flavored items rose 11.6 percent, the slowest growth in at least three years, according to Nielsen data. Declines in pumpkin-flavored coffee, milk and frozen waffles, pancakes and French toast were especially steep. Still, pumpkin-flavored item sales remain a large market, clocking in at $360 million at retail outlets, including grocery and convenience stores.

So if pumpkin has reached saturation, which seasonal item will start to take share? This is difficult to predict, Tristano says, adding it’s possible other seasonal flavors like gingerbread, molasses, peppermint or eggnog could increase.

5 Things to Know About McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast

October 26, 2015

2015-10-26_0912Brad Tuttle

The world changed at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

McDonald’s Launches All-Day BreakfastThese Are the Best and Worst McDonald’s Breakfast FoodsThe Unlikely Origin Story of the Egg McMuffin

For many years, McDonald’s said that it was pretty much impossible to serve all-day breakfast. The thinking was that the restaurants were too busy, and the kitchens were too small, to handle breakfast orders on top of burgers and the rest of the menu.

But after receiving tens of thousands of demands for all-day breakfast on social media—and after finding itself in a fairly desperate situation in which sales have declined substantially—McDonald’s has capitulated, and the era of all-day breakfast kicks off on Tuesday, October 6. That means that around the nation, McDonald’s customers can order breakfast items past the usual cut-off time of 10:30 a.m. So today, you can expect plenty of fast food enthusiasts to be enjoying McDonald’s breakfast for lunch, brunch, dinner, a mid-afternoon snack, and anything and everything in between.

Here are a handful of things to take note of concerning the arrival of McDonald’s all-day breakfast.

Only part of the breakfast menu is available all day. Because of the complications of adding breakfast to the menu alongside the rest of the usual afternoon options, McDonald’s is limiting the kinds of breakfast items available for the entire day. All-day menu options vary by location, though most will have a core selection of things like hot cakes, fruit and yogurt parfait, oatmeal, sausage burrito, and hash browns.

No Egg McMuffins in the South. The biggest “controversy” over McDonald’s all-day breakfast is that there is a sharp division of North and South. “Maybe the Mason-Dixon line should be renamed the Biscuit-McMuffin line,” industry publication Nation’s Restaurant News deadpanned. It was decided that Southern tastes prefer biscuits over McMuffins, and because it was too difficult for McDonald’s restaurants to serve both all day, locations had to go one way or the other. McMuffins rule most of the country, while the Southeast’s “Biscuit Belt” stretches through Appalachia, and from Louisiana east through to Georgia. Florida, however, has been declared McMuffin territory, presumably because the state is so full of transplants from other parts of the country.

The move is an unusual popular crowd pleaser for McDonald’s. The world’s biggest fast food burger joint has become a magnet for haters over the years, with McDonald’s serving as a high-profile punching bag for anyone who has a beef with obesity, poverty, nutrition, environmental issues, and beyond. So the fact that the switch to all-day breakfast is generating McDonald’s praise by the masses is a very big deal. “This is the consumers’ idea. This is what they want us to do,” McDonald’s president Michael Andres told the Wall Street Journal last month. “That’s why I think this could be the catalyst for our turnaround.”

AdAge noted that McDonald’s new ad campaign highlights the idea that all-day breakfast was driven by customer demands, with people reading random Tweets sent out about the big change: Some McDonald’s are offering freebies to celebrate. While there is no national promotion heralding the era of all-day breakfast, McDonald’s in various parts of the country are hosting specials. On Monday, for instance, a McDonald’s-Uber partnership was offering free delivery of McDonald’s food to customers in the greater Miami area. On Wednesday, Colorado McDonald’s are hosting a special “PJ Day,” in which customers who wear pajamas into restaurants will be rewarded with a free Egg McMuffin; “5 a.m. to midnight offer, shirts and shoes required,” the promotion stipulates.

While popular, all-day breakfast could backfire. McDonald’s is somewhat in danger of cannibalizing sales with all-day breakfast—and because breakfast items are generally cheaper than burgers and sandwiches, profits could remain flat, or even decrease. “The lower check average [of breakfast items] doesn’t drive the margin as much as higher-priced items like premium burgers,” Darren Tristano, an executive vice president at Technomic, explained to CBS News.

A New Meaning For ‘to go’ at Restaurants

September 7, 2015

2015-09-02_1535Peter Frost
(c) 2015 Crain Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Before Charlie McKenna opened Lillie’s Q in Bucktown in 2010, he knew his small-batch barbecue sauces would play a key role in his restaurant’s success.

He probably didn’t expect that, five years later, his line of regional-inspired sauces such as Carolina Gold, Ivory and Hot Smoky would be in 2,500 stores in six countries and rise to become the fastest-growing premium brand in the segment. His retail line, which has expanded to include kettle chips, rubs and bloody mary mixes, is on the shelves at Target, Whole Foods, Mariano’s, Crate & Barrel and more, and is growing nearly fourfold each year. Revenue from the products equals that of any of his four restaurants.

“At a certain point, we were selling so many bottles from our restaurant we decided to test the waters with small local stores, then local distributors, then national chains,” says Brian Golinvaux, who was brought in to run a new specialty food division called Lillie’s Q Sauces & Rubs. “I would compare it to what happened in the beer category years ago—craft brewers saw an opportunity that the big brands were not serving and took market share.”

While restaurant-affiliated retail products aren’t exactly new—Rick Bayless’ Frontera salsas have been around for 16 years—a growing number of chefs and restaurants around Chicago are rolling out pastas, breads, sausages and sauces of all types to sell. But where there’s opportunity to boost revenue and name recognition, there’s risk.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for restaurants to familiarize more people with the quality of their products as well as the brand itself,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago-based market-research firm Technomic. “The danger is, if you don’t actively manage the quality of the product, you risk having a negative reflection toward the brand.”

Because restaurant-generated packaged foods fall into myriad categories, there’s limited data on how much of the market such brands represent, though Tristano says the trend is gaining momentum.

Although chefs have a built-in advantage here—after all, they’ve spent months, if not years, developing and perfecting recipes in their restaurants—producing them for a retail customer and in large volume is a different animal.

First they must have a tastier chip, a tangier sauce, a superior sausage to others in the market. Then they’ve got to find a commercial-scale producer to make, package and distribute it, which often involves months of trial and error. From there, they must get it on store shelves at a price consumers are willing to pay. And they must do all of it at the same quality as what comes out of a restaurant’s kitchen. Any misstep in the process could be fatal.

“If you look back through history, there have been lots and lots of chefs who have launched retail food products, and in many cases, it has wound up hurting their brands,” says Manny Valdes, chief executive and co-owner of Chicago-based Frontera Foods, which makes tortilla chips, salsas, seasonings and prepared frozen meals that are sold at more than 65 percent of grocery stores across the country, with sales rising by about 20 percent a year.

For instance, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s frozen pizzas once were in virtually every high-end grocer. Now they have disappeared from the market.

Closer to home, Stephanie Izard of the wildly successful Girl & the Goat in Chicago launched a series of marinades and rubs with online retailer Abe’s Market in mid-2013. The products are no longer available at Abe’s, and an Izard spokeswoman says the chef is relaunching the line. BellyQ’s Bill Kim, who sold five signature bottled sauces at his Chicago restaurants and niche retailers, has stopped producing that line, with the hope of relaunching in coming months.


Still, chefs and restaurateurs keep trying to go retail.

Jared Van Camp of Element Collective started selling house-milled flour and dried pasta from Nellcote soon after opening the West Loop restaurant in 2012. From there, he has branched into a retail juice operation, Owen & Alchemy, which sells bottled cold-pressed juices at Eataly, Local Foods and its own store. Recently, he was in Louisiana working with a co-packer to develop and bottle a line of sauces used at his Chicago fried-chicken joint, Leghorn.

He plays it safer by keeping production low and selling his products in a small number of local retailers. “It doesn’t cost much, it’s free marketing and everything you sell contributes to the bottom line,” Van Camp says. “There’s no risk to that.”

Formento’s, an Italian restaurant in the West Loop, opened in January with built-in plans to sell its products in its adjoining takeout spot and store, Nonna’s, mostly as a marketing tool. But its marinara sauce is selling so fast that owner John Ross is talking with local grocers about carrying his products, too.

And then there’s the Publican, which through West Loop offshoot market-cafe Publican Quality Meats continues to expand its retail and wholesale offerings amid soaring demand. PQM sells branded ice cream, olive oil, honey and granola, the latter in collaboration with Chicago cafe Milk & Honey.

Its breads and sausages are sold at Treasure Island and Local Foods, as well as at restaurants around the city. The sausages, produced by Hometown Sausage in East Troy, Wis., can be found on the menu of Chicago-area Shake Shack restaurants, at two professional sports stadiums in Cleveland and at festivals like Lollapalooza. The restaurant estimates that north of 5 percent of its annual revenue comes from its retail and wholesale products, a figure that’s poised to grow.

“Originally we were just a small shop on the corner that took some of the pressure off the kitchen at the Publican,” says Bradley Smith, PQM’s retail coordinator. “But as you go along, you realize, ‘Oh wow, we can sell these sausages all over the place.’ It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

But they’re fighting the urge to get too big too fast. One slip and they risk winding up in the same place as Wolfgang Puck’s frozen pizza.

Hard Pass on Alcohol and Fast Food Combinations

September 2, 2015

Rachael Andersen
(c) Copyright 2015, Argus Leader. All Rights Reserved.

I generally try to keep a pretty open mind, and overall I am tolerant of some pretty strange ideas … even if I don’t agree with all of them.

There are a few things, however, that I just can’t completely wrap my brain around.

Take fast food, for example. It makes total sense to me. You’re in a hurry. You’re starving, and you need to grab a quick bite. Find the nearest drive-through, and your problems are no more.

Now, consider a beer menu at a restaurant. I not only understand this, I condone it. There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying a beverage at dinner while in good company.

But when you combine those two concepts, you end up with a (somewhat) new trend that I’m just not sure if I can get behind: beer (and other alcohol) offerings at fast food restaurants.

For the past five years or so, well-known fast food giants have begun offering alcoholic beverages at select locations. Favorites such as Burger King, Sonic, Qdoba, Chipotle, White Castle, and others offer choices of bottled beer and wine, and in some instances, mixed liquor drinks. Even Starbucks is in on the trend, offering an “evening menu,” which includes beer, wine and appetizer options.

Most recently, Taco Bell has started marketing beer, wine and frozen cocktails. “Just put yourself in the mind of the young male customer,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic. “He might want to have a chalupa. But he’s with a female, who says, ‘I really don’t want to have Mexican, but I’d love a glass of wine.’ You’ve eliminated the veto vote by providing what is likely going to be a nicely priced wine.”

I may be an anomaly, but when I want a glass of wine, I don’t typically imagine myself enjoying it in a teal-and-purple plastic swivel chair at a table smeared with nacho cheese and old lettuce shreds. This is not to say I’m not a fan of Taco Bell and its undeniable charm, but there is a time and place for everything.

Additionally, I consider most fast food restaurants to be family-friendly. Beer can certainly be present in these types of environments, but there will inevitably be people who abuse the offerings. I definitely wouldn’t want to bring children around these situations.

One must also consider the fast-paced, “grab-and-go” nature of fast food restaurants. Obviously, these fast food chains are not offering beer for sale in their drive-throughs. But consider this: When was the last time that you sat down to eat at a fast food restaurant and stayed longer than about half an hour? If I drink a beer, I like to give myself time to enjoy it and let it digest a bit before I leave a restaurant. I have to wonder if the fast-paced environment of these restaurants may lead people to down a drink and hit the road.

I’m all for restaurants expanding their business and trying new things. And I undoubtedly enjoy seeing beer selections at various eateries. But I’m just not sure I can get behind the idea of beer at fast food restaurants. When I think of a bar, I think of beer. When I think of Starbucks, I think of coffee. When I think of Taco Bell, I think of guiltily delicious faux Mexican. I’m just not sure that the trouble of attaining a liquor license is worth it for these fast food chains.

Although Sioux Falls has yet to see much of this trend, if it’s successful in bigger metropolis areas, I don’t think we’re too far behind. Maybe by the time wine is offered at my favorite Starbucks, I’ll be more open to the idea. But for now, when the cashier at Burger King asks if I’d like a beer with that, I’ll reply, “Nah — I’ll stick to fries.”


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