Will Novelty Foods Fix the Fast Food Slump?

August 15, 2016

1471036997485By Vera Gibbons
http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2016/08/15/will-novelty-foods-fix-fast-food-slump.html 

Grilled hot dogs. Mac ‘n Cheetos. Beefy Frito burritos. Chicken rings. Hot dog-crusted pizza. The revival of old cult favorites like clear soda and chicken fries.

And now – the “Whopperrito.”

Yup, this burger/burrito hybrid goes national today following successful test debuts in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

What gives? Why are the fast food chains putting so many weird – if not repulsive – food gimmicks on their menus? “It’s about generating traffic,” says Darren Tristano, president of Technomic Inc., a food service research firm.

There’s been a pullback in the industry, you see. A slump. And everyone’s feeling it – from Shake Shack (SHAK) to Starbucks (SBUX) to McDonald’s (MCD).

“Things were going really well at the start of the year when all the economic indicators that would correlate to positive restaurant conditions were in a good place – gas prices were low, confidence was up, housing was settled – and then in April, the switch turned off even though the indicators were still in place.”

Why? Tristano says there isn’t one specific reason for the softness. “People are buying food from other places – supermarkets, convenience stores; they’re eating at home more; and then there’s the presidential election, which could be a trigger point. It’s really the most tangible explanation anyone can point to—political uncertainty.”

Regardless, consumers – especially those looking ahead and thinking about college obligations and other expenses – are watching their wallets, says economist, Arjun Chakravarti, Assistant Professor of Management and Marketing at the Stuart School of Business.

While the younger set (The 25-year old group without 401ks and exposure to the global markets) is more optimistic about the economy and therefore more inclined to spend (especially in light of slightly rising wages and lower gas prices), says Chakravarti, the reality is that purse strings are pretty tight right now. And they’re not expected to loosen them anytime soon.

In fact, restaurant sales, virtually flat, are expected to remain weak for the rest of the year, according to The NPD Group, an industry research firm.

Is this a warning sign for the economy? “A downturn in restaurant sales increases the likelihood of a recession, but the hope is that it’s counteracted/buffered by expectations for increases in business spending in the 3rd quarter,” says Chakravarti.

Fast food chains aren’t taking any chances. They’re responding by offering aggressive discounts that emphasize affordability, and unleashing innovative, zany mash-ups that are more profitable (Burger King’s “Whopperrito” will sell for $2.99; $4.99 when wrapped into a combo meal.).

Buzz marketing – a viral marketing technique that is focused on maximizing word-of-mouth potential largely on social media platforms – is the name of the game, says Dan Rene, senior vice president at LEVICK, A strategic communications firm. “Fast food chains are engaging customers by selling them an ‘experience’ and this is an ‘experience’ that customers want to be part of, and share—pictures, posts, you name it.”

“It doesn’t matter whether or not customers like the food or what it tastes like. If everyone’s talking about it and the hype results in more foot traffic for the fast food chain, it’s won.”


Leading Culinary Predictions & Trends 2016: What’s in the Hunt?

August 4, 2016

Morrocan.jpg

By Barbara L. Vergetis Lundin, Assistant Editor
http://www.foodabletv.com/blog/leading-culinary-predictions-and-trends-2016-whats-in-the-hunt

A survey of chefs conducted by the National Restaurant Association predicted 20 trends for 2016. The chefs are obviously on top of their game, as all of the trends have come to fruition in some form or fashion. Which ones are in the hunt?

“True trends evolve over time, especially when it comes to lifestyle-based choices that extend into other areas of our everyday life,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association, in a statement. “Chefs and restaurateurs are in tune with over-arching consumer trends when it comes to menu planning, but add their own twist of culinary creativity to drive those trends in new directions. No one has a better view into the window of the future of food trends than the culinary professionals who lead our industry.”

Some of the predictions are “fully inundating top restaurant chains,” according to Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, a Winsight Company.

Farthest along are natural ingredients, ethnic condiments/spices, authentic ethnic (think Middle Eastern and African spices like sumac and dukkah), ancient grains, ethnic-inspired breakfast items like coconut milk pancakes, and street foods, as a multitude of top chains are embracing these trends in one way or another, he said.

“In my opinion, the two biggest headliners of this year have been natural ingredients and ethnic condiments/spices,” Tristano said. “They’re showing up in all restaurant segments and cuisine types in so many different ways.”

Natural Ingredients

When it comes to using natural ingredients, Panera is setting a high standard. Not only does Panera stress clean ingredients, but the chain has a “no-no” list of ingredients that they have committed to removing from their food by the end of 2016, including artificial flavors and colors; artificial sweeteners like aspartame; partially hydrogenated oils and artificial trans fat; fat substitutes like sucrose polyester and micro-particulated whey protein concentrate; lard; high fructose corn syrup; sucralose; maltodextrin; added nitrates, nitrites, and sulfites; and added caffeine.

California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) recently announced its intention to use more local, natural ingredients. For example, it will source vegetables like lettuce, kale, and arugula from local and regional farms whenever possible. Not only are the ingredients being used this summer at California Pizza Kitchen natural, they are simple – as evidenced by new seasonal dishes like California fields salad (with fresh field greens and baby kale, strawberries, watermelon, basil, California pistachios, feta, and champagne vinaigrette), strawberry shortcake featuring house-made candied lemon zest, strawberry lime margaritas, and strawberry mango coolers.

“It’s been a long, cold winter for many and we are happy to welcome the warmer weather by offering a taste of the season’s freshest ingredients throughout our menu,” said Brian Sullivan, senior vice president of Culinary Development for California Pizza Kitchen, said in a statement. “Tender, leafy greens are a key component to many of our dishes and we’re also giving fresh strawberries special emphasis this season…We love summer at California Pizza Kitchen when some of our favorite produce, like sweet strawberries and watermelon, are at their freshest and juiciest.”

Even McDonald’s has jumped on the natural ingredient bandwagon with a new line of summer salads that are moving from traditional iceberg lettuce to red leaf lettuce, romaine, baby spinach, and baby kale peppered with vibrantly colored vegetables.

McDonald’s culinary and supply chain teams have even traveled to some of the chain’s lettuce suppliers, learning, right in the field, how the leaves are harvested and how suppliers maintain consistent growing techniques.

Further, McDonald’s has committed to fully transition to cage-free eggs over the next 10 years. Annually, McDonald’s purchases approximately two billion eggs in the U.S. and 120 million eggs in Canada.

Ethnic Condiments and Spices

American consumers are seemingly pretty adventurous when it comes to food. In fact, 80 percent of those consumers surveyed by the National Restaurant Association in 2015 consume at least one ethnic cuisine per month; 17 percent eat seven or more monthly.

Further, two-thirds are trying a wider variety of ethnic cuisine than they were five years ago, according to NRA research. Restaurants were found to be the main way consumers get access to ethnic food.

“Americans generally are more willing to try new food than they were only a decade or so ago – especially in restaurants – underscoring that the typical consumer today is becoming more adventurous and sophisticated when it comes to different cuisines and flavors,” said Annika Stensson, director of Research Communications for the National Restaurant Association, in a statement. “Ethnic cuisines are a long-term trend on restaurant menus, with some being so common that they’re hardly considered ethnic anymore, while others are still relatively unknown. However, our research shows that consumers are exploring a range of international dishes these days.”

The research revealed that, not surprisingly, Italian, Mexican, and Chinese are the most familiar, while consumers are least familiar with Ethiopian, Brazilian/Argentinian and Korean cuisines. However, condiments and spices with these origins are popping up on familiar menus.

Lizzy Freier, menu analysis managing editor with Technomic has been tracking the up and coming trends in spices and has found that berbere (a staple spice mixture in Ethiopian cooking) and other African influences are making their way onto North American menus. In particular, True Food Kitchen serves a Moroccan Chicken with chickpea, olive, spinach, and chermoula (a North African marinade); BLT Steak features a rack of lamb with a spicy North African merguez sausage; Veggie Grill has unveiled a super green salad featuring hummus and harissa (Tunisian hot chili pepper paste); and Modern Market’s eggplant goat sandwich offers a spicy helping of harissa tahini.

Nando’s chicken chain has made peri peri (also called piri piri) famous, if not infamous. The Portuguese seasoning, which is prevalent in South Africa, contains crushed chiles, citrus peel, pepper, salt, onion, lemon juice, basil, oregano, tarragon, lemon juice, pimento, paprika, and bay leaves (although Nando’s recipe is a secret). A chain similar to Nando’s, albeit much smaller, Boneheads Grilled Fish & Piri Piri Chicken also capitalizes on the South Africa influence.

Noodles & Company has incorporated a similar, more exotic version of sriracha into its menu. Called gochujang, it plays heavily in the fast-casual restaurant’s new dish Korean BBQ meatballs with gochujang sauce – making Noodles & Co. the first national restaurant chain to feature gochujang on its menu. Sriracha is also a popular condiment at Noodles & Company, as well as other chains like Subway.

Ghost peppers, the world’s spiciest pepper, are a hot menu item, as evidenced by Wendy’s ghost pepper fries and Quaker Steak & Lube’s dusted ghost pepper flavor which is available for a limited time as a wing sauce.

Brazilian-influenced brands include Texas de Brazil Churrascaria, Fogo de Chao, and Tucanos Brazilian Grill. Plus, these kinds of ethnic influences are also appearing on non-ethnic restaurant menus. For example, Yogurtland offered a limited-time Argentinian Dulce de Leche Cookie frozen yogurt flavor at the end of April.

Argentinian Chimichurri sauce has been popular at national brands, particularly paired with shrimp (Taco John’s, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, and Red Lobster).

Early Stage Trends and Laggards

On the opposite end of the spectrum, many trends – like hyper-local sourcing, artisan ice cream and butchery, and house-made sausages – are in their early stages, appearing in mostly independent restaurants.

“[These trends] are really tough for large restaurant chains to do on a national level…because it’s expensive and equipment can be tough to source,” Tristano said.

Some of these trends do well in non-commercial as opposed to commercial.

“Hyper-local sourcing and food waste reduction/management are both well-developed at college and university foodservice,” said Tristano. “Applying these to the mainstream could be tougher, though some chains like Sweetgreen and Shake Shack have approached trends like food waste in interesting ways by repurposing food scraps.”

For example, for a limited time, Sweetgreen and Shake Shack featured a burger created by Chef Dan Barber (the wastED juice pulp cheeseburger), which used leftover vegetable pulp, leftover cheese trimming, and bruised beets for ketchup, atop a repurposed bun made from stale rye bread.

While other trends, are making progress, it has been significantly limited. For example, chains like True Food Kitchen and Top 500 chain Sweetgreen feature sustainable sea bass and sustainably farmed trout, respectively, but many other large chains aren’t quite there yet.

While pickling has been a huge trend in recent years, even making it onto menus like Red Robin which recently unveiled a Battered Broccoli with house-made pickled jalapeno aioli, there hasn’t been a significant surge on other top menus.


Eatery digests patrons’ feedback

June 6, 2016

Arkansas-based fast-casual restaurant chain Slim Chickens, known for its tenders and wings, is rolling out a chicken-breast sandwich for taste-testing.

Testing is underway at Slim Chickens’ three Fayetteville locations, its Rogers store, and in Broken Arrow, Okla., near Tulsa. The restaurant chain is offering cayenne ranch and buffalo chicken sandwiches in Northwest Arkansas and cayenne ranch and Cajun chicken versions of the sandwich in Oklahoma.

Customers who select the sandwich are asked for feedback in a survey that takes about a minute to complete. That information goes straight to a few select Slim Chicken executives. So far, customers’ feedback has already resulted in changes to one of the sandwiches. The process is expected to continue for the next several weeks.

“Early indicators are positive,” said Sam Rothschild, Slim Chickens’ chief operations officer. “This is why you test.”

While the chain has offered sandwiches in the past, this is the first one made with a whole, premium chicken breast. Rothschild described the test sandwiches as being made from high-quality chicken and “fully dressed” with Slim’s sauce, pickles, lettuce and onions.

“We want our sandwich to stand out,” he said.

Slim Chickens has 35 restaurants — 25 are company owned and 15 are franchise operations — in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee, with 21 other stores under construction. With the new stores, Slim’s is expected to have more than 50 restaurants open by the end of the year. The company said it hopes to have 600 stores in the United States by 2024.

Slim Chickens competes in the fast-casual segment, where operations focus on an enhanced dining experience compared with fast-food operations. While they don’t have a wait staff, fast-casual restaurants typically deliver patrons their food after ordering.

According to information provided by Chicago-based Technomic Inc., a research and consulting firm focusing on food and food service, sales at limited-service chains among the top 500 U.S. restaurant chains grew 5.5 percent to $211 billion in 2015. Sales at limited service chicken restaurants was up 9 percent. Limited service chains include fast food and fast-casual concepts.

Sales in the fast-casual segment alone were up 11.5 percent, and unit growth was up 9.6 percent in 2015, according to the report.

Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, said that portability, in the form of a sandwich, is something that consumers are looking for, and that adding a sandwich helps fast-casual operations compete with more traditional fast food’s convenience factor.

“One hand on the wheel and the other on a sandwich,” he said.

He added that Slim Chickens’ efforts to test the sandwiches locally are wise.

“They are getting consumers to validate the quality of the product,” he said. “It’s what successful brands do but not what everybody does.”

Rothschild said the sandwich sells for $3.99 by itself or as part of a combo meal at $6.49. Slim Chickens’ lowest cost combo meal, pre-sandwiches, was $6.99. He said that puts the Slim Chickens’ sandwich and combo meal close to fast food on price.

“We want people to come to us when they want chicken,” Rothschild said.


Spice up Sliders with Non-Burger Options

May 10, 2016

SS-CrabCakeSlidersSmall

by: Marzetti Foodservice
http://blog.marzettifoodservice.com/spice-up-sliders-with-non-burger-options/

Customers continue to crave sliders, those mini sensations that pair well with warm weather and cold beverages. The opening of seating on patios and sidewalks always signals an uptick in orders for these shareable snacks. Sliders are the ultimate treat for customers who want “just a bite” of something at happy hour or snack time. They’re a popular option for grazing-prone millennials, who often choose “snack like” items over larger entrées. Operators love the versatility of sliders, since they represent a single menu item that can be used as a hors d’oeuvre, appetizer or entrée.

The Slider Evolution

“Sliders are part of the increased trend for personalization, customization and miniaturization that we see throughout the industry,” says Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, a food industry research and consultancy. “Sliders are going through their own evolution now, and chefs are moving beyond the basic burger, using the soft bun as a carrier for different proteins like pulled pork, chicken or salmon.”

Tristano says the highly customizable format allows operators to demonstrate their culinary credibility. “Because consumers are ordering a smaller portion, they’re usually willing to be more adventurous, or to order a combo plate of a few different types of sliders, one of which can be a more creative stretch for the kitchen.”

Sliders on the Menu

There are endless options for what goes inside a signature slider. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Family Sports Pub serves Southern Fried Chicken Sliders with smoked Gouda cheese and honey mustard aioli. Del Frisco’s Grille’s Asian Street Bao Sliders include barbecue pork, pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, cilantro and chiles. And Bar Louie offers Blackened Salmon Sliders with bacon, spinach, tomato and pesto mayonnaise.


McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast Sparks a Fast Food Fight

May 9, 2016

by Leslie Patton

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-03/mcdonald-s-breakfast-push-sets-off-morning-scramble-in-fast-food

Fast-food joints aren’t hitting the snooze button anymore.

McDonald’s Corp.’s decision to start selling Egg McMuffins all day long last year — meant to help sales during lunch and dinner time — has boosted its morning business as well. That, in turn, has kicked off a scramble among its rivals to find new ways to combine eggs, potatoes and meat for a tasty breakfast.

The latest example is Burger King’s Egg-Normous breakfast burrito, which is being introduced in the U.S. on Tuesday. It’s stuffed with sausage, bacon, eggs, hash browns, cheddar and American cheese and served with picante sauce. The home of the Whopper, which still serves breakfast only during morning hours, also recently added a supreme breakfast hoagie and got rid of slower-selling English muffin sandwiches.

“We’ve invested more in breakfast,” Alex Macedo, head of Burger King North America, said in an interview. “The environment is very competitive.”

Along with adding and deleting items, Burger King tweaked its smaller egg burrito earlier this year, removing green and red peppers and replacing them with hash browns.

Skillet Bowls

Taco Bell revised its morning offerings in March to include $1 options such as skillet bowls and sausage flatbread quesadillas. Subway Restaurants just announced buy-one-get-one subs for the month of May. The catch: They have to be purchased before 9 a.m. And Dunkin’ Donuts revamped its menu boards to focus on all-day choices and started advertising $1.99 Coolatta drinks that are sold at all hours.

The changes come as more U.S. consumers grab eggs and coffee outside the home, according to a study by researcher GfK MRI published by EMarketer.com. Last year, more than 34 percent of Americans reported buying breakfast at fast-food restaurants, an increase from 32.8 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, fewer consumers said they’re dining out for lunch and snacks. Dinner increased less than 1 percent.

McDonald’s all-day breakfast in the U.S. has helped turn around its worst sales slump in more than a decade by drawing more customers throughout the day, including the morning. The plan is surpassing its goals.

Exceeding Expectations

“It’s still exceeding our expectations,” Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook said on a conference call in April. “Whilst we clearly added incremental visits and incremental spend across rest of day, our breakfast business has also prospered.”

Items like Egg McMuffins and hash browns fueled a 5.4 percent U.S. same-store sales increase at McDonald’s in the first quarter. That’s stronger than the most recent quarterly gains posted by Burger King, Dunkin’ and Taco Bell.

“It’s helped drive success, which they haven’t seen for several years,” said Darren Tristano, president of industry researcher Technomic Inc.

After losing customers to McDonald’s all-day Egg McMuffins, Jack in the Box Inc. has been advertising a triple-cheese and hash-brown breakfast burrito. Same-store sales at company-owned Jack in the Box locations may be down as much as 3 percent in the recently ended quarter, the company said in Februar-1x-1y. The chain also is adjusting and improving other breakfast items, CEO Lenny Comma said during a conference in March.

Dunkin’ Donuts said last month that its new menu boards are helping drive breakfast-sandwich sales. It’s also focused on introducing mobile ordering and will start a 1,650-store test in metro New York in May to get customers their morning meals even faster. CEO Nigel Travis says McDonald’s push has actually helped Dunkin’ in the breakfast battle by highlighting that the doughnut chain has the same menu all day. Still, the change has increased competition for diners’ dollars.

“Clearly, the value war is pretty intense,” Travis said in an interview.


The Mac Daddy: Can the Big Mac survive in the age of the ‘better burger’?

April 26, 2016

by Time Walker
Independent
April 24, 2016
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/return-of-the-mac-50-years-of-mcdonalds-big-mac-burger-a6998436.html

big-mac-2

For almost half a century, the world’s most popular burger has remained all but unchanged by the swirls and eddies of the US fast-food business. Today, the Big Mac is still composed of the same few simple ingredients made famous in a 1974 advertising campaign: “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – on a sesame seed bun.”

Even as it was assigned the blame for America’s expanding waistlines and became a byword for US cultural imperialism, the signature McDonald’s sandwich, first made in 1967, has continued to sell in the hundreds of millions. But now, on the eve of its 50th birthday, the Big Mac is about to undergo the most fundamental alteration in its history.

Last week, McDonald’s began trialling two new versions of its best-selling burger at around 130 locations in Texas and central Ohio: a smaller so-called “Mac Jr”, and a larger “Grand Mac”. If the two new sizes prove to be a hit with customers, they will be rolled out across the US. From now on, the Big Mac may – technically speaking – be a Medium Mac.

McDonald’s US sales fell steadily over the first half of this decade, and the company has admitted it must innovate to keep pace with consumer tastes. Its core menu is its testing ground. With stiff competition from its rivals in the so-called “better burger” sector, the Big Mac is struggling to maintain relevance in the industry it first helped to super-size.

This week The Weinstein Co released the first trailer for its McDonald’s biopic The Founder. Oscar-tipped, the film stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the ambitious businessman who wrested the chain from its creators, the McDonald brothers, in the 1950s. It’s either the origin story of an enduring American institution, or a nostalgic glimpse of a fading empire’s glory days.

The Big Mac was created in 1967 by one of Kroc’s early franchisees, Jim Delligatti, who operated several McDonald’s restaurants in Pennsylvania. At the time, it was considered a prestige menu item, and a necessary response to Burger King’s Whopper. It became available across the US in 1968 and, upon its sesame seed-encrusted shoulders, McDonald’s would build a global brand.

Andrew F Smith, the author of Hamburger: A Global History, teaches culinary history at the New School University in New York. He ate his first burger in 1956, back when McDonald’s had only a handful of items on its menu. “I didn’t like the burgers,” he recalled. “I went because the French fries were great.”

Eventually, Mr Smith said, Mr Kroc and co realised their customers “didn’t just want something cheap, they wanted something that tasted good. The trifecta of taste is sugar, fat and salt; those are the flavours inherent in virtually all fast-food. The secret of the Big Mac? A lot of fat and salt! It became a symbol for McDonald’s and for the entire hamburger industry”.

Today, McDonald’s purports to serve some 68 million customers per day, in 119 countries. The Big Mac, as potent a symbol of American capitalism as Coca-Cola or the iPhone, has been used by The Economist to compare the cost of living in different countries since 1986, when the magazine published its first “Big Mac Index”.

In a press release announcing the Mac Jr and Grand Mac, Scott Nickell, the president of the McDonald’s Central Ohio Co-op, described the Big Mac as “a McDonald’s icon and a great-tasting sandwich,” adding: “We listened to our customers, who told us they wanted different ways to enjoy the one-of-a-kind Big Mac taste.”

The Grand Mac contains one-third of a pound of beef compared to a regular Big Mac’s one-fifth of a pound, and it comes in a bigger bun with an extra slice of processed cheese. In 1967 Delligatti sold his new creation for 45 cents; today’s Big Mac costs $3.99 (£2.78). The Grand Mac will go for $4.89, while the modest Mac Jr is a mere $2.59.

It’s a sensible business move, explained Darren Tristano, executive vice president at the food industry consultant Technomic. “McDonald’s beverages and French fries have always come in multiple sizes,” he said. “By creating the Grand Mac and Mac Jr, they can satisfy both price and portion sizes for different people’s tastes, without adding any new items to the menu.”

Just like the Big Mac in 1967, the Grand Mac and Mac Jr are a response to market forces. For decades, the Big Mac was the standard against which all other burgers were measured, but for many of today’s burger-lovers, it’s little more than a punchline. Who needs a Big Mac when you have “better burger” chains such as Five Guys, Smash Burger or the upmarket Umami Burger?

Chipotle Mexican Grill, considered the most successful “fast casual” dining chain in the US, said last month it had applied for a trademark to open a burger chain called, simply, Better Burger. The fast casual market exploded in the late 2000s and is now worth around $5bn, Mr Tristano said. “It has stolen share not only from McDonald’s, but fro10 Burger King and Wendy’s.”

Perhaps the leading purveyor of “better burgers” is Shake Shack, which opened its first permanent restaurant in New York in 2004 and now has almost 70 locations worldwide. Shake Shack landed in London in 2013, and this year opened its first west coast branch in West Hollywood. When it went public early last year, the company was valued at around $1.6bn.

Shake Shack’s cows are said to be raised without antibiotics or hormones, and its beef ground fresh from full-muscle cuts, not scraps. The chain launched in the same year as the release of the documentary Super Size Me and shortly after the publication of Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation, both of which helped make the Big Mac a symbol of the evils of the food industry.

Still, McDonald’s appears to enjoy its greatest success not when it tries to flog salads, but when it stays true to its original, nutritional values: salt, fat and sugar. In recent months, the firm curbed its US sales slide by offering breakfast all day. Days before the new Big Macs were unveiled, a Missouri branch announced it would serve “bottomless” orders of fries.

In the US, McDonald’s must now jostle for position with multiple rivals. Overseas, its business continues to grow in countries where chain restaurants have yet to saturate the market. The bitter irony is that the Big Mac may be viewed more positively by consumers in the developing world than it is at home, in the culture it helped to create.

History’s most influential burger may still be a global bestseller, but in America the Big Mac fell out of fashion years ago. It’s the Elvis of sandwiches. “The Big Mac was for the Baby Boomer generation. It was exactly what we wanted and needed in the 1960s, 70s and 80s,” said Mr Smith.

“But my students go out of their way to avoid McDonald’s. They prefer all these new chains who claim they don’t use antibiotics or additives, who say they use grass-fed beef only – all the things that are attractive to millennials. Shake Shack may be healthier than eating a Big Mac. But then again, eating salt and fat and sugar has never been good for you, and it still isn’t.”

 


Johnny Rockets to scrap nostalgia for modern look

April 15, 2016

By Nancy Luna
The Orange County Register
April 14, 2016
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/chain-712056-rockets-new.html

Rockets

To assure its future, Lake Forest-based Johnny Rockets is scrapping much of its past.

The iconic Lake Forest-based burger chain is saying goodbye to dancing servers in white paper caps, jukeboxes, red-vinyl booths and stainless steel counters. The 30-year-old chain founded in Los Angeles is unveiling today a contemporary restaurant in Syracuse, N.Y., with wooden finishes, pendant lighting and a self-serve ordering kiosk for to-go orders.

“We were showing our age. We were looking a little old; a little tired,” Chief Executive Charles Bruce said in a phone interview Wednesday.

While there’s “equity in the brand,” Bruce said, the chain’s 350 restaurants have not seen the kind of repeat foot traffic needed to keep the chain going another 30 years. “The frequency wasn’t really good.”

The prototype New York restaurant looks like a modern fast-casual diner with glass globe lights, wood finishes on walls and tabletops, dark-colored booths and bright red chairs and barstools.

This year, the chain plans to grow aggressively with 70 new locations domestic and worldwide. Of those, one-third are adopting the new look. The rest of the chain, including older locations in Southern California, will adopt elements of the changes in stages, the company said.

The most dramatic changes are wiping out key 1950s-inspired features that have made the brand a Southern California institution.

In New York, servers are dressed in black or dark denim jeans with white oxford shirts. No more paper hats and nostalgic soda jerk-style uniforms. Quaint hospitality-driven touches like servers creating smiley-face ketchup designs next to an order of fries and spontaneous dancing are also going away.

Bruce, who came on board last year as CEO, said “someone dancing isn’t really relevant these days” to most customers, including millennials.

The changes are meant to move the brand forward by reaching out to millennials, while increasing sales among core customers – families and Latino diners. In 2015, Johnny Rockets generated nearly $206 million in sales, down 4.6 percent from 2014, according to market research firm Technomic in Chicago.

For now, the chain is focusing on making design changes to new restaurants. The core menu remains the same, though efforts have been made to add more limited-time burger specials in the last year.

Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, said shifting from its nostalgic brand roots is risky.

“Moving away from what consumers identify with the brand could be potentially confusing,” he said.

Still, he said the chain’s decision to first introduce the change to newer locations is a good approach.

“I think you test and see if it works,” he said.

Chain officials declined to say how much capital the privately owned company is investing in the new design. However, Bruce said the redesign might look “upmarket” and “eye-catching” but the costs are “on par with where Johnny Rockets has been.”


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,585 other followers