How ’bout them apples?

November 15, 2011

How ’bout them apples?

Parents who can’t get their kids to eat anything except fast food may be a little happier when they scream for the Golden Arches.

McDonald’s is rolling out a new Happy Meal that automatically includes apple slices — without caramel sauce — and downsized French fries along with the choice of Chicken McNuggets, a hamburger or cheeseburger.

The new Happy Meal hits New England on Friday under the chain’s initiative to help families make more nutrition-minded choices.

The changes are a “small step,” according to professor Marion Nestle of New York University’s department of nutrition, food studies and public health.

“Now if they would just make milk or juice the default instead of soda,” she said. McDonald’s instead will offer fat-free chocolate milk or 1 percent milk as “promoted options” with Happy Meals.

The new default Happy Meal has reduced calories, fat and sodium. The smaller, 1.1-ounce fries have less than half the calories, fat and sodium of the current 2.5-ounce fries included with the meals. And the elimination of the caramel cuts out 70 calories, 0.5 fat grams and 35 milligrams of salt.

“By offering the apple slices and smaller fries, we’re providing more balanced options for children and parents to feed their children,” said Nicole DiNoia, McDonald’s Boston-area spokeswoman. “Sometimes parents have trouble saying ‘no’ when it comes to French fries, and it’s troublesome to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables.”

The question is, will kids bite? Apple “dippers” with caramel sauce have been an optional Happy Meal replacement for fries since 2004, but McDonald’s says they were ordered only 11 percent of the time.

A recent report by Chicago restaurant consultancy Technomic found 70 percent of moms order off kids’ menus because their kids “want it,” while only 13 percent said “healthy options” were the reason.

“You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink,” said Darren Tristano, Technomic executive vice president. “It’s an obligation of the parents to have the child eating something healthier as well as the child to eat it.”

View the full article on Boston Herald

Technomic creates insights group to keep up with fast casual growth

November 15, 2011

Technomic Creates Insights

Technomic creates insights group to keep up with fast casual growth

As a follow-up to its Foodservice Planning Program study of the fast casual segment, presented to suppliers in January 2012, Technomic is launching a new Fast Casual Insights Group to provide ongoing monitoring and growth forecasts.

The new group is in response to the segment’s growth, which continues to outpace growth of quick-service and full-service segments.

Though fast casual is relatively small — comprising 6 percent of the restaurant industry — its influence has been notable. With origins in once-innovative concepts such as Fuddruckers, Koo Koo Roo and the “home meal replacement” trend, as well as prime development seen in chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the fast casual sector has evolved and expanded.

“Watching the success of fast casual concepts, quick-service restaurants have adapted by improving menu items and adding fresh positioning. Leading QSRs like McDonald’s and Wendy’s are upgrading to fast casual-like decor and Chick-fil-A is testing table delivery,” said Technomic EVP Darren Tristano, who has been studying the fast casual segment since its identification in the early 1990s.

Tristano adds that full-service restaurants have also integrated elements of the fast casual segment, including Pizza Inn with its recent launch of the Pie Five Pizza Co. brand, and Denny’s with its Fresh Express concept.

“But innovative fast casual concepts continue to evolve, adding full-service elements like table service in the evening and quick-service convenience like drive-thrus and delivery, defying the typical ‘fast-casual’ definition,” Tristano said.

Key components of the Fast Casual Insights Group include:

•Qualitative and quantitative operator research to determine how they define “fast casual,” the critical strategic issues and competitive threats facing operators, and technology’s role in the segment;
•Analysis of Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics data, outlining the attributes that drive satisfaction at fast casual concepts and how individual brands rate on these attributes;
•Historic perspectives including sales and unit growth, segment share and analysis of why some concepts have earned ongoing success while others have struggled or ceased operation;
•A predictive view of the future, including growth forecasts through 2020, the concepts and niches that will see long-term success and why; and
•The Fast Casual 400 — the most thorough ranking of fast casual concepts.
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View the full article on Fast Casual