Technomic Presents at Restaurant Leadership Conference

March 27, 2012

Hundreds of influential industry operators and foodservice suppliers were in attendance during Technomic’s session on “Winners and Spinners,” presented by industry icon and Technomic President, Ron Paul and Executive Vice President Darren Tristano at the annual Restaurant Leadership Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

This year’s event theme “Winning in a Changed World” looks toward a future where the industry faces greater uncertainty, including less loyal consumers who’ve been hit hard by the recent recession and current economic climate.  In spite of the challenges, Technomic still identifies leading chains that have performed successfully and demonstrated unit and sales growth during recent years. 

These success stories include mature chains like McDonalds, Longhorn Steakhouse and Chick-fil-A as well as up-and-comers like Chipotle, Firehouse Subs and Cantina Laredo.  As Ron Paul pointed out, “unit growth during this climate has been a good indicator of stronger unit economics.” 

Recent Technomic Top 500 results include insights on consumer shifts toward fast casual restaurants. The fastest growing chains in 2011 were led by Five Guys Burgers and Fries (in the limited-service category) and Yard House (among full-service restaurants). The Technomic session looked at why winners win and why spinners spin with Tristano pointing out several reasons for chain growth stall-out:

  • Concept fatigue is taking its toll on consumers who are turning to more contemporary restaurants
  • New competitors in each segment are putting greater pressure on more established brands
  • Chains with narrowly focused customer demographics can suffer from customer base issues
  • Several larger chains are focusing on international expansion with less effort spent domestically
  • Weak or deteriorating economic models are generating weaker results
  • Under-capitalized brands or those with weak cash flow can’t invest more aggressively at the unit level

The session gave operators a roadmap for evaluating their concept and several ideas on future strategic focus.

All Restaurant Leadership Conference attendees and Technomic Digital Resource Library subscribers will receive slides from the presentation.

Wings: A Fan Favorite Beyond March Madness

March 27, 2012

Trendy Restaurants Should Thrive As Economy Improves

Wings: A Fan Favorite Beyond March Madness

Even if your favorite college basketball team falls out of contention, the March tourneys still provide an excellent excuse to gather around a platter of your favorite chicken wings. But the excuses don’t end with March. Wings have remained a year-round favorite, exhibiting substantial innovation and room for growth according to recent research from restaurant consultants Technomic.

“Wings and sports have long been a winning combination-and more than 10 percent of all wing-based limited-time offers are game-day promotions,” says Technomic Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. “However, wings’ overall appeal comes from their ability to suit consumers’ desire for customization, including traditional and global flavor options from sweet to super hot, and for portion flexibility, serving as snacks, starters, entrees and sides. And they are fun finger foods that are easy to share, so they lend a social aspect.”

In its new Category Close-Up: Wings report, Technomic delves into its MenuMonitor online menu-tracking resource and finds that 36 percent of the Top 500 restaurant chains offer wings, and that number has grown year after year.

Of particular note is the extent to which restaurants have innovated in the wing category:

Wing flavors and sauces found on menus range from Buffalo and barbecue to the tequila-lime-barbecue at Quaker Steak & Lube and the Raspberry Ice-a sweet and tangy blend of raspberry and horseradish-at Hurricane Grill &Wings. Buffalo/hot sauces are the most commonly menued wing sauces. Among these types, the less-spicy mild and medium sauces have declined as Buffalo and “extra-hot” varieties have grown. Wing concepts offer an average of 18 different sauces. Hurricane Grill lists more than 30, as does Wild Wing Cafe. Variety is also found at chains not focused on wings-Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and Cheeseburger in Paradise, for example, each offer 12 options. Sweet-style barbecue sauces are more popular than spicy-style barbecue sauces, though preferences vary heavily by region. Consumer preference for sweet sauces indicates opportunity for flavors such as sweet and sour, honey-chipotle and maple-brown sugar. Fully 28 percent of wing-focused limited-time offers promote new wing flavors, offering operators a compelling method to drive sales while testing new wing varieties. Boneless wings are on the rise. And, interestingly, as restaurants have added them, the incidence of traditional wings has not decreased. Operators have found boneless wings appeal to a new consumer-one who does not enjoy the finger-licking aspect of traditional wings.

Chicken wings are among the most popular menu items, but also one of the most difficult to classify and analyze. Technomic’s Category Close-Up: Wings provides restaurants and industry suppliers with a thorough review of wing menu trends, pricing, sizing, sauces, accompaniments and limited-time offers, in addition to consumer perceptions of the leading wing chains and other related consumer research.

View the full article on Fox Sports