Innovative Taco Bell Brand Does It Again With New Nacho Fries for a Buck

March 14, 2018

In what has been Taco Bell’s most successful new product launch in their history, Nacho Fries appear to have hit home with American consumers. Driving appeal through both indulgence and value, this $1 craveable side makes it easy for consumers to add on to any meal and build strong trial. Quality potatoes continue to be a staple in the diet of many consumers.  Good supply and availability creates a low risk and attractive margin for operators. Adding a spicy seasoning and a dipping sauce makes this a strong target for kids and a product that can easily be consumed in the car, hot out of the bag.

French fries are the most popular side item at competitive fast food burger chains; McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s, Offering French fries increases the competitive market for meals occasions that include fries. This increases frequency for value-seeking consumers and expands the snacking daypart opportunities by satisfying hunger in between meals. For younger children, French fries can establish a bridge for a Mexican-inspired fast food chain to offer a menu item that has familiarity with kids, encouraging them to try new flavors and foods. For teen and tweens, the spicy flavor continues to increase in appeal and provides the kick that a more sophisticated, adventurous palate craves.

In addition to bolstering the dollar menu, Nacho fries are also an ingredient that allows customers to add a 49 cent “hack” to their entrees which creates a mashup of flavor and texture by incorporating the fries into the meal. Mashups have become very popular for desserts like Cronuts, which are a combination of a croissant and a donut. This trend is evolving into other meal parts and allowing culinary teams to be more creative.

So what does this mean for Taco Bell? Most importantly, this level of risk in innovation can have a high reward not only in sales but in the perception by the consumer that the restaurant brand is innovative. This increases willingness for trial and the inherent risk in purchasing new items as a strong track record will allow consumers to try with confidence. Innovative items drive social media posts with pictures across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms. The buzz marketing, press coverage and consumer curiosity can be a difference maker in a highly competitive restaurant market where big brands fight for share of stomach and share of wallet.


Will Burger Flipping Robots Replace Humans, Or Are They Just A Side Show?

March 9, 2018

Forbest Blog Post: Will Burger Flipping Robots Replace Humans, Or Are They Just A Side Show?

Recently, burger chain CaliBurger incorporated “Flippy”, the burger-flipping robot at one of their restaurant locations. Essentially, the plan was to utilize the machine to complement workers by increasing speed of service, not replace them. It didn’t take long for Flippy to take its break while the company evaluates how humans will interact with the robotic machine which neither talks nor takes a break. Company culture and productivity often depend on the ability for staff to communicate and interact socially. In the right environment, social interaction leads to better morale and inspires humans to work faster and smarter. The interaction also has a strong positive impact on the customer experience where friendly, attentive service improves a restaurant patron’s satisfaction level and improves loyalty and their intent to return.

Flippy’s appeal is not just based on how well the robot flips burgers. Apparently, news of the robots activity spread rather quickly and drove a number of consumers to the location to see it themselves. Now this addition becomes a marketing tool and attraction for guests to not only dine at the restaurant but to satisfy their curiosity and witness the marvel. Flippy is a new celebrity.

Restaurants continue to operate with a very low margin on average around 5%. Increasing speed of service, efficiency and reducing labor costs are strong reasons for building robotics into an industry that has lagged with technology integration. If the investment also drives customers through the door, the payoff can be very big for operators who can afford to invest in robots. Ultimately, humans will need to learn to work with robots and likely build new expectations on restaurant hospitality as it evolves.

Today, Flippy may appear to be a sideshow gimmick but likely, this is the start of a big trend for restaurants and will shape the future of hospitality.