Consumers pick top restaurant chains

January 28, 2016
635886546846667948-papam.jpg6 a.m. CST January 19, 2016
http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/business-journal/2016/01/19/consumers-pick-top-restaurant-chains/78945800/

Some restaurants with a presence in Sioux Falls were among the winners of the Consumers’ Choice Awards from industry research firm Technomic.

It surveyed consumers about 138 restaurant chains and 60 attributes.

“It’s important to point out that it’s the consumers who rated the chains and selected the winners,” said Darren Tristano, president of Technomic. “In essence, the award is from the customers themselves.”

The winners are:

• Food quality, quick-service category: Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza

• Food quality, fast-casual category: Firehouse Subs

• Food quality, full-service restaurants: Bonefish Grill

• Intent to return, quick-service: In-N-Out Burger

• Intent to return, fast-casual: Rubio’s

• Intent to return, full-service: Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen

• Provides value through service, quick-service: Chick-fil-A

• Provides value through service, fast-casual: Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches

• Provides value through service, full-service: Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

• Socially responsible, quick-service: Ben & Jerry’s

• Socially responsible, fast-casual, Chipotle Mexican Grill

• Socially responsible, full-service: Seasons 52


Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® Wins Chain Restaurant Consumers’ Choice Award

January 27, 2016

Nick Flanagan, a senior vice president for restaurant and retail for Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores®, accepts award from Technomic President Darren Tristano. Cracker Barrel was named a Chain Restaurants Consumers' Choice Award winner for 2016. (Photo: Business Wire)LEBANON, Tenn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® was named Chain Restaurant Consumers’ Choice Awards winner in the full service restaurant category for the value it provides through excellent service, marking the restaurant company’s third win since 2013.

Conducted by Technomic Inc., a leading food industry research company, its fourth annual Chain Restaurant Consumers’ Choice Awards identifies the top chain restaurants by asking nearly 100,000 consumers to rate over 120 leading restaurant chains on 60 different attributes ranging from the quality of food to the overall brand reputation. Cracker Barrel was given top marks on its ability to provide value through high-quality service, according to consumers.

“Consumers give Cracker Barrel credit for its friendly and polite servers,” said Technomic Inc. President Darren Tristano. “When we asked why they gave high ratings for their visit, many of our respondents talked about how they always make people feel at home.”

“Cracker Barrel’s commitment to excellence is driven by our mission of Pleasing People,” said Cracker Barrel Senior Vice President of Restaurant and Retail Operations Nick Flanagan, who accepted the award at Technomic’s Consumer Insights Planning Program Conference in Newport Beach, California on Thursday, Jan. 14.

“We promise guests a friendly, home-away-from-home, where they can relax, enjoy real home-style food and be cared for like family,” he continued. “Since 2013, Cracker Barrel has been voted the top full service restaurant in the Consumers’ Choice Awards’ ‘Pleasant, Friendly Service,’ ‘Food and Beverage,’ and ‘Value Through Service’ categories, which is a testament to our 72,000 employees who bring our mission to life every day.”

About Technomic

Only Technomic, A Winsight Company, delivers a 360-degree view of the food industry. We impact growth and profitability for our clients by providing consumer-grounded vision and channel-relevant strategic insights. Our services range from major research studies and management consulting solutions to online databases and simple fact-finding assignments. Our clients include food manufacturers and distributors, restaurants and retailers, other foodservice organizations, and various institutions aligned with the food industry. Visit us atwww.technomic.com.

About Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. provides a friendly home-away-from-home in its old country stores and restaurants. Guests are cared for like family while relaxing and enjoying real home-style food and shopping that’s surprisingly unique, genuinely fun and reminiscent of America’s country heritage…all at a fair price. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (NASDAQ: CBRL) was established in 1969 in Lebanon, Tenn. and operates 635 company-owned locations in 42 states. Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2015 Consumer Picks survey named Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® the winner in two Family-Dining Restaurants categories – Menu Variety and Atmosphere. For more information about the company, visit crackerbarrel.com.


Long John Silver’s plans reboot just in time for Lenten fish fries

January 26, 2016

Christmas comes in February for seafood restaurant chain Long John Silver’s, which is launching a reboot of the iconic brand in 2016.

Pittsburgh is front and center for the new Long John Silver’s because of the region’s large Catholic population, the third largest nationwide, according to CEO James O’Reilly. Lent, the 40-day season of penance and avoiding meat at meals, starts Feb. 10, bringing with it boom sales for the privately held, Louisville, Ky.-based company.

“There will always be ups and downs in the restaurant industry, but it’s all about delivering consistency to customers,” the 49-year-old Mr. O’Reilly said. “The time of Lent for us is what Christmas is to retailers.”

Pittsburgh and the surrounding five counties have between 500,000 and 600,000 Catholics, according to Pittsburgh Catholic editor William Cone. The newspaper is preparing to publish its annual list of parish fish fries Jan. 29 in preparation for the start of Lent.

“It’s probably one of our most popular issues,” Mr. Cone said. “People wait for it all year.”

Mr. O’Reilly was in Monroeville Thursday for a daylong meeting with about 50 operators of its 17 corporately owned stores in the Pittsburgh area and some franchisees from outside the region. He planned to discuss the staffing increases at the restaurants — 300 new jobs are planned — and improvements to stores and parking lots.

One thing that won’t change much is Long John Silver’s menu, which has been criticized in recent years as unhealthy for its fat and sodium content. National Public Radio once called Long John Silver’s food a “heart attack on a hook,” but some meals have since been discontinued, as was the use of trans fats.

Baked fish options have always been available from the chain and one dinner has just 600 calories, Mr. O’Reilly said. What’s more, consumers can build meals with even lower calorie counts.

Having healthier options is key, said Darren Tristano, president of Chicago-based marketing research outfit Technomic Inc. But consumers aren’t thinking of healthy eating when eating out.

“Quite frankly, consumers are looking for fried food,” he said. “Indulgence away from home is what they’re looking for and it’s also often very affordable.”

Mr. O’Reilly, who came to Long John Silver’s in March 2015 from hamburger chain Sonic Corp., takes over the reins at a difficult time as consumers have been shunning traditional fast food in favor of restaurants selling healthier fare. Long John Silver’s, which has about 1,300 stores nationwide, also has had changes in leadership.

Mr. O’Reilly replaced Mike Kern, who served as CEO for three years. Mr. Kern was part of investor group LJS Partners LLC that bought the restaurant chain from Yum! Brands Inc. in 2011. The company was founded in 1969 and did not disclose sales figures or the cost of the store upgrades, which are being carried out nationally as well.

Consumers will continue to seek out Long John Silver’s food, partly because there are few other places that focus on fried fish, said Warren Solochek, president of the food service practice at Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group Inc. New paint, lighting and other planned store improvements aside, the challenge for Mr. O’Reilly will be to keep the restaurant name in the consumer’s mind.

“What are they going to do to be top of mind?” Mr. Solochek said. “And he may have a plan to do that.”


Why Coffee Delivery Is the Future of On-Demand Ordering

January 25, 2016

by Gloria Dawson @ Eater
Jan 14, 2016, 12:00p
http://www.eater.com/2016/1/14/10758072/starbucks-delivery-dunkin-donuts-office

It’s never been easier for consumers to get things delivered. So why not coffee?

Imagine a piping hot coffee delivered to your office or home at the proverbial “click of a button.” For consumers, it’s perfect. For the coffee companies attempting to provide these services, it’s a bit more complicated. But two of the major chains, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, are ready to give it a try.

2015 was a big year for Starbucks, which added several services designed to be quick and convenient. In September, the company rolled out nationwide availability of Mobile Order & Pay through its apps, which allows customers to order ahead on the app and pick up in-store without waiting. In October, Starbucks announced a pilot project: It started bringing coffee and other items to employees of the Empire State Building through an in-house service, Starbucks Green Apron Delivery, which promised items “delivered by Starbucks baristas right to your office.” And in December, Starbucks officially debuted its previously announced partnership with start-up Postmates, allowing customers in Seattle to order delivery using the Starbucks app.

It’s not just Starbucks getting into the delivery game. In November, Dunkin’ Donuts launched two programs designed to “make it even easier and more convenient for people to run on Dunkin’ from morning to night,” announced a company press release. On-the-go ordering — which works with the company’s app in a similar style to Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay — first launched in Portland, Maine. Dunkin’ Delivery, meanwhile, first launched in Dallas as a partnership with the on-demand delivery start-up DoorDash, and both services have expanded into other cities.

Although fast-food and coffee chains have great convenience, the expectation by consumers to get food delivered is increasing.

But why coffee delivery? “Both ordering methods are simply new ways to… meet customers where they are in their day,” says Starbucks spokesperson Maggie Jantzen. Apparently, the most-asked-for service on the My Starbucks Idea blog was, “When will Starbucks just bring me coffee?”

According to Darren Tristano, the president of food industry research firm Technomic, “with the rise of on-demand delivery services like Postmates and others, many operators have researched the opportunity to outsource or build delivery services,” and that includes brands already known for convenience. “Although fast-food and coffee chains have great convenience — including in-store and drive-through options — the expectation by consumers to get restaurant food delivered is increasing,” he says, “and broadening across new segments.”

But anyone who has waited longer than expected for a food delivery, received a dish that had cooled in transit, or not received what was ordered, understands that delivery logistics are complicated. Unlike Amazon shipments, there’s only a brief window of time that most food items can be delivered before getting cold or spoiling, and some might say that the window is even shorter for coffee.

“The flavor and aroma characteristics of hot, brewed coffee drinks change quite rapidly as the temperature decreases,” says Nick Brown, editor of Roast Magazine‘s Daily Coffee News. “And while everyone drinks their beverage at a different pace, the most loyal of customers may have some sensory expectations tied to their favorite drinks. Time and temperature seem to be the two biggest obstacles here in repeating the experiences consumers have come to expect within the brick-and-mortar retail locations.”

“Given the number of locations that each brand has, it should be relatively easy to develop delivery options,” Tristano says of the logistics. “Challenges facing both operators will include peak time service, logistics in-house, and managing the delivery in a way that doesn’t impact the on-premise operation or the brand quality as products leave the store.”

Starbucks’s rollout of Green Apron delivery seems to take these concerns into consideration. The company used existing infrastructure for its Empire State Building delivery: The building already had a Starbucks café, and the company uses a separate kitchen for the Green Apron orders. There are more than 12,000 employees in the building, but they are all just an elevator ride away. Customers place orders on a fairly simple website. Orders arrive in approximately 30 minutes, according to the company. But Ashley Fleishman, a lawyer who works in the Empire State Building, reported coffee delivered in 10 minutes. And yes, “the coffee is still hot,” she says.

Starbucks’s “Green Apron Delivery” service is designed for deskside deliveries within large high-rise buildings.

Green Apron Delivery partners are discouraged from accepting cash tips, says a company rep, but the company is working on adding digital tip options to the website. And although Starbucks did not share plans for expanding Green Apron, Jantzen describes the service as one “for customers within a designated high-rise building.”

The company has, at least, one new customer. Fleishman used to get her caffeine fix from her office’s Keurig machine. “I am not a religious coffee drinker,” she says. “So with Starbucks, I probably drink more than I previously did before delivery was offered.”

While the Green Apron delivery seems to focus on office delivery, “customers aren’t just in office buildings,” according to a Starbucks press release announcing the Postmates partnership in Seattle. “They’re at soccer games with their kids, at home with family, or gathering at the park with friends.” To get those skinny lattes to soccer games, Starbucks teamed with Postmates, a delivery company that has a love-hate relationship with the restaurant industry. (Postmates often offers delivery from restaurants without their consent.) Despite the complicated relationship with restaurants, Starbucks considers Postmates “an industry leader in the on-demand delivery space,” writes Jantzen. “They have the technology and expertise to scale this program with Starbucks.”

It’s safe to say Postmates is committed to the relationship: According to the company, they’ve designed a new carrier “so that we could ensure that the coffee would arrive the way it left the store.” Customers order through the Starbucks app, which has been modified to use Postmates’ ordering and delivery technology, the first and only food company app to do so. Users in Seattle and elsewhere can still order through Postmates directly, but having delivery built into Starbucks app allows customers to customize orders, the company said in a press release. For Postmates deliveries, Starbucks charges a $5.99 delivery fee.

Jantzen also says that Starbucks has “no additional plans to share in regards to other food delivery companies.” But it would not be uncommon for large chains to test our various food delivery options. For example, 7-Eleven is working with both Postmates and DoorDash in different cities. In terms of logistics, Slurpees have a lot in common with coffee — a delivery that’s just a few minutes late can be problematic.

Dunkin’ Delivery customers can order only through the DoorDash app — DoorDash has experience working with chains including Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The partnership probably made getting the program of the ground easier for Dunkin’ Donuts, but will most likely limit the information they can gather from their customers. For the partnership, DoorDash began deliveries at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., a few hours earlier than the typical 10 a.m. start time, in order to serve breakfast. Breakfast and food in general is a growing category for many fast food companies, according to Brown.

“This strikes me as a relatively low-risk channel to explore, especially if the technology bears out.”

“While breakfast has been a strong suit, we’ve seen roughly one-third of coffee orders come after lunch,” says Prahar Shah, the head of business development at DoorDash. Office deliveries are popular. “We see three to four folks on a team doing the ‘coffee run,’ but doing it with DoorDash.” Dunkin’ Donuts’ Box ‘O Joe, which holds 10 cups of coffee in a box, are popular with the late-afternoon office crowd, says Shah.

This partnership has expanded from Dallas to Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles/Orange County. And Dunkin’ Donuts is looking to expand delivery, with or without DoorDash. “As we continue to test Dunkin’ Delivery, we will look to explore options for other partnerships and integrations with the DD Mobile App,” writes Sherrill Kaplan, who works on digital marketing and innovation at Dunkin’ Brands.

“Both companies have made big strides in their app development and mobile ordering platforms, and it makes perfect sense that they would try to leverage that loyalty through a new channel,” such as delivery, writes Brown, the Roast editor. “This strikes me as a relatively low-risk channel to explore, especially if the technology bears out.”


A few Tampa Bay Chick-fil-A’s offer Mom’s Valet service that went viral

January 22, 2016

Chick-fil-A knows parents are busy.

And it isn’t easy to grab a meal on the go when you’ve got young children in the back seat.

A number of Chick-fil-A restaurants across the nation are offer a service called “Mom’s Valet” in which parents can order meals from the drive-through, then park. By the time they’ve got the kids out of the car, a table is waiting for them with their food and high chairs inside.

Not all Chick-fil-A restaurants in Tampa Bay offer the service, but the ones on St. Pete Beach and on Gulf to Bay Boulevard in Clearwater do. Another one on Waters Avenue in Tampa will start offering it next week.

The program started at one Chick-fil-A a while ago, said company spokeswoman Bekki Poelker, and has since grown to more than 100 of the company’s 1,900-plus U.S. locations.

The service is free. Parents who want to use it just need to say so when they place an order at the drive-through. An employee will be waiting for them inside to serve their food.

“We’ve seen some services in fast food, like White Castle, which sometimes takes reservations and dresses up tables on Valentine’s Day, but for the most part, you don’t see a lot of this,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a Chicago-based food research firm. “It’s a great accommodation for parents, and from the Chick-fil-A brand standpoint, it fits well with their very specific philosophy with religion and family.”

The service received national attention earlier this month when a franchisee-owned restaurant posted about it on Facebook and it went viral.

“Our hope is that with ongoing improvements to our mobile ordering app, all customers will have access to this level of convenience at their fingertips in all locations in the future,” Poelker said.

Similar to Publix or Nordstrom, Chick-fil-A is a brand that has a cult-like following. When new stores open, fans camp in the parking lot for a chance to win free Chick-fil-A for a year.

In October, the Chick-fil-A on St. Pete Beach hosted an all-you-can-eat chicken nugget promotion, which received hundreds of thousands of shares and likes on social media.

In 2015, Chick-fil-A was named the No. 1 restaurant based on customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Chipotle was a close second.


Restaurant food delivery heating up

January 21, 2016

Maria Kim, left, thanks UberEats driver Jim Butler for delivering her lunch in Chicago on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

By Samantha Bomkamp, Chicago Tribune
Published: January 10, 2016, 6:09 AM
http://www.columbian.com/news/2016/jan/10/home-delivery-pay-restaurant-meal-2016/

It’s snowing. You don’t own a car. You’re lazy and hungry.

At least a dozen companies are ready to deliver prepared foods to your front door, and the market for restaurant delivery is set to expand significantly in 2016, industry observers say, driven by greater availability and consumers’ growing willingness to pay big money for convenience. But with demand rising, analysts say prices will increase as companies test exactly how much you’ll fork over for a hot meal.

The table for 2016 is set: Multiple startups are already competing fiercely for a still-small section of the restaurant market, and consumers are growing more aware of the options available to them via delivery.

Delivery accounted for 1.7 billion U.S. restaurant transactions in the 12 months that ended in September, or just about 3 percent of the 61 billion U.S. restaurant “visits” or transactions in the year that ended in September, according to The NPD Group.

Burger and sandwich delivery is leading the way in terms of growth, but all categories are growing except for pizza, said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD. Delivery has seen steady growth in the last four years while business across the restaurant industry overall has been flat or down.

“For those consumers that want something different, now they have other options,” she said. “If it travels well and it’s unique or different, consumers are going to go for it.”

But expanding delivery services come with a unique set of problems: More delivery orders can mean in-store customers wait longer, or feel they’re not the priority, said Michael Whiteman, president of Baum+Whiteman International Restaurant Consultants. And if the restaurant prioritizes in-store customers, food intended for delivery can take longer to arrive and may rapidly decline in quality.

To avoid that, some restaurants have physically separated their delivery businesses from their in-store operations.

Chipotle Mexican Grill added a second assembly line in the kitchen of nearly all their restaurants nationwide to handle delivery and catering orders. These second lines account for an average of $500 in sales per day, co-CEO Montgomery Moran said on an earnings conference call in October, adding that he sees a lot of room for that to grow.

Panera took a more extreme approach: It’s testing “delivery hubs” that handle only delivery and catering. Executives say the new locations will help them catch the growing delivery market without harming customer service in its cafes. Darren Tristano, president of research and consultant firm Technomic, said he expects to see more brands dividing their businesses in this way as delivery grows in popularity, particularly among young city dwellers without cars and office workers who don’t want to step out for lunch.

Delivery has come a long way from the days when pizza and Chinese food were the only games in town. Technology has changed the market significantly in recent years. The evolution of online, and later mobile, delivery started in the early 2000s when GrubHub and Seamless were founded. In recent years, companies like Postmates, DoorDash and Uber have partnered with a wide range of new restaurants, from McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts to high-end restaurants.

These third-party delivery providers allow restaurants to offer delivery without a lot of added costs, Whiteman said. But there’s a lot at stake for restaurants in deciding how delivery is managed. If a third-party delivery person grabs the wrong order or gives bad customer service, it reflects badly on the restaurant itself.

Another issue: Who owns the customer? As technology companies like Amazon and Uber jump in the delivery game, concerns are surfacing about the information that is provided to those outside parties. If, for example, a customer orders pizza every Friday from the same restaurant through Amazon delivery, Amazon would be able to market another company’s pizza or Italian options before their weekly order. In that case, Amazon would keep the customer but the original restaurant would lose them, Whiteman said. Amazon offers restaurant delivery in some cities through its Prime Now service.

And for customers, delivery fees are expected to get even steeper, Whiteman said, because the market is still growing at a rapid pace. In some cases, Technomic’s Tristano forecasts the combination of delivery fees, service charges and upcharges for meals reaching as much as $20-$30. Prices vary widely but in some cases delivery can double the price of a meal.

“It will be an interesting experiment in speed and convenience,” Whiteman said.

Restaurants will also have to deal with possible backlash from a difference between in-store and delivery prices, Whiteman said. Postmates, for example, charges a $5 delivery fee but also a 9 percent service fee, plus “blitz pricing” during peak times.

Increased demand is also expected to lead to consolidation as third-party providers including Uber, Amazon, Postmates and DoorDash fight to get a bigger slice of the market.

“There’ll be an enormous amount of collapse,” Whiteman said. “And they’ll hope to be acquired before they fall apart.”

But Paolo Lorenzoni, Uber’s Chicago general manager, thinks that the market still has a lot of room to expand before “chaos” ensues.

“Our perspective is that a rising tide lifts all boats,” Lorenzoni said. “And that rising demand for delivery will ultimately help all our businesses grow.”