Why fast-food chains are making ‘increasingly outrageous’ creations to get you through the door

September 30, 2016

imrsBy Becky Krystal
The Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/going-out-guide/wp/2016/09/28/why-fast-food-restaurants-are-coming-up-with-increasingly-outrageous-ways-to-get-you-through-the-door/

Call them what you will. A sign of the apocalypse. Unabashed marketing ploys. The anti-kale. However you view the latest splashy fast-food innovations, know this: They’re probably not going anywhere. At least for now.

The latest of these creations to be foisted onto America: Pizza Hut’s Grilled Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza, which features mozzarella and cheddar baked into a crust that’s topped with bread crumbs and melted butter. Close relatives of recent vintage include Burger King’s Whopperrito and Mac n’ Cheetos, KFC’s Double Down, Pizza Hut’s hot-dog-crust pies and Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos.

Such creations, often referred to as stunt foods or limited-time offers if they’re temporary, aren’t concocted in a vacuum, especially since they can take months or even years to develop. In the last few years, the trend has grown amid efforts to lure customers back into fast-food restaurants, as well as diners’ quest for novel items to share on social media.

Now it seems like each release is wackier than the last. “Like clickbait, the concepts are so unbelievable, so shocking, so Onion-headline-esque that they work,” said Sophie Egan, author of “Devoured,” an exploration of the modern American diet. “They’re irresistible.”

The wave of headline-grabbing fast-food items has its roots in the recession, when the industry entered a slow-down period that lasted through 2014. “A lot of these companies were trying anything to get customers back” during that time, said Sam Oches, the editorial director of Food News Media.

Ask observers and analysts what particular promotion was the turning point in paving the way for successors, and you’re likely to get one of two answers: KFC’s Double Down, a bacon, cheese and Colonel Sauce sandwich that used fried chicken fillets as a bun, and Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos. (Not surprisingly, both chains are part of the same parent company, Yum! Brands, along with Pizza Hut.)

Launched in 2012, Taco Bell’s Doritos-taco mashup took two years to develop. The fast-food chain sold 100 million units in the first 10 weeks and surpassed the $1 billion sales mark the following year. “The Doritos Locos Taco was a pivotal moment in our brand’s innovation journey,” said Rob Poestch, Taco Bell’s director of public affairs and engagement.

Coming next year: The Naked Chicken Chalupa with a fried chicken shell.

Why do they do it?
Despite the effort these foods take to develop, most aren’t intended to be sustainable as long-term menu additions. “It’s almost never about making money off the product,” said Darren Tristano, president of the food industry analysis firm Technomic.

In fact, the bestselling items at fast-food restaurants tend not to be the wacky mashups, but the classic offerings — Taco Bell’s standard tacos and burritos, for example.

The point of the limited-time offers, as Taco Bell’s head of social insights, Ben Miller, told the Atlantic, is “getting people in the door.” Tristano also said it’s about taking money away from competitors and making companies seem innovative and appealing.

So why do companies need to invent excuses for you to come in? The main reason is competition, and not just from their immediate fast-food brethren. Fast-casual restaurants such as Cava Grill, Chipotle and &pizza have moved in on the fast-food market and are growing at a faster rate, said Elizabeth Friend, a Euromonitor International strategy analyst. From 2014 to 2015, fast-casual brands grew at a rate of 10.2 percent, compared to 3.1 percent for the rest of the fast establishments.

Years ago, a diner’s only option for getting food quickly was the local drive-through. Now, “It’s really easy to get food quickly with minimal effort,” Friend said, pointing to such delivery apps as UberEats and GrubHub in addition to grocery stores with hot bars and prepared food offerings.

“Convenience is a very strong factor,” Tristano said. And if fast food isn’t as convenient as other options, then brands have got to think of something else.

A crazy fast-food item might be the only nudge a diner needs to walk into a Taco Bell or Burger King. If they’ve seen news coverage or a post on social media, the restaurant might later be at the top of their mind when they’re trying to decide where to go.

Why does it work?
No doubt the visuals are especially compelling and share-worthy, which says as much about consumers as it does about the brands hawking them. “The vast majority of us, we don’t have a lot of exciting things that happen to us” on a daily basis, said Brian Wansink, author of “Slim by Design” and the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab.

By trying one of these flashy foods and photographing them, people are showing that they’re willing to try something new. And like most food photography, those social media-friendly images are aspirational. They aren’t usually representative of our diet, a cultural disconnect that Wansink, in a study of historic paintings, has shown goes back well before the advent of fast food and the Internet, let alone cameras.

The whole experience suggests that consumers are full of contradictions. We make an effort to eat well but still want to reject the health-food guilt, at least once in a while. “We want to feel that we’ve treated ourselves. We want to feel that we’ve experienced new life experiences, and food is part of that,” Egan said.

Diners are also downright curious to know what something new tastes like, which may be more human nature than food culture. “You just can’t help yourself,” she said.

So what’s next for stunt foods?

As long as people keep paying attention to them and talking about them, the short term expectation is that they’ll become “increasingly outrageous,” Technomic’s Tristano said.

In the long-term, though, the “the tide of consumer empowerment” (see: nutrition labels, the fight against GMOs, etc.) is turning, and people may begin to call these foods out as, well, stunts.

The feeling is that “it will no longer be smart business to rely on stunts, and instead [companies will] start to take more of the cues from what these fast-casual chains are doing,” Egan said, referring to fast-casual’s more customized meals, upscale decor and values regarding the environment, sourcing, health and social issues.

r they might try stunts of a different sort.

After all, Pizza Hut did recently reveal a turntable pizza box.


Taco Bell Runs Naughty TV Ad For ‘Happier Hour’

March 27, 2014

taco-bell-campaign-188_2To drive awareness of its “Happier Hour,” which runs from 2 to 5 pm each day, Taco Bell is running new TV creative that’s slightly naughty, in a playful way.

The spot (in 30- and 15-second versions), from Deutsch LA, shows three different scenarios in which male/female pairs — office colleagues, college students and seniors — exchange suggestive looks and then appear to be heading out together for a tryst, as the song “Afternoon Delight” plays in the background.

But it turns out that they’re all actually headed to a Taco Bell, where they can get any “Loaded Griller” for $1, and any medium beverage for the same price, during those three afternoon hours.

The “Afternoon Delight” version is a Little Hurricane cover of the 1976 Starland Vocal Band song.

The keen-eyed viewer may notice a cameo by “America’s Next Top Model” winner Laura Ellen James, playing a college student who clearly makes the day of her much-shorter classmate when she lures him out of an in-progress lecture.

The spot started airing this week on networks and cable, and will continue running through the end of June, with additional media support through the end of August. Happier Hour is being promoted on Taco Bell’s social assets, including Facebook (10 million “likes”) and Twitter (1.1 million followers), as well as featured on YouTube.

Happier Hour is described in consumer promotions as a “limited time offer,” but it’s been running at participating locations since last year (an “always on” promotion), according to Deutsch. The current marketing push is the second campaign for Happier Hour; Taco Bell also ran a campaign last year.

The reasons behind a special afternoon event/offer aren’t hard to grasp. QSRs obviously benefit from driving more traffic during the quieter hours between and following regular meals. And offering snackable items at attractive prices has become a key strategy for driving such business.

According to a new “Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report” from foodservice research firm Technomic, 51% of Americans now report that they eat snacks at least twice a day — up from 48% two years ago. Nearly half (49%) report that they eat snacks between meals, and 45% replace one meal a day with a snack.

Among those who buy snacks at restaurants, 45% order from the value or dollar menu.

“There’s plenty of room for restaurants to expand their snack programs and grab share,” even as packaged food makers and retailers also push harder to grab those snacking dollars, noted Technomic EVP Darren Tristano.

And while candy is still the dominant snack (purchased at least occasionally by 71% of surveyed consumers), half of consumers say that “healthfulness” is very important to them when choosing a snack. As a result, many restaurants, like their CPG counterparts, are including healthier options within their snack offerings.


On the Horizon: Five Trends for U.K. Restaurants

January 24, 2014

The trends driving restaurant growth and innovation are driven by consumer demands for transparency, quality, flavour, and flexibility.

The U.K. foodservice scene continues evolving in unique and interesting ways. Looking forward to next year, Technomic’s analysts and consultants have identified five key trends that expected to play major roles at British restaurants.

Catering to the Millennial customer

As the influence and collective spending power of the U.K.’s Millennial generation grows, expect to see restaurant operators amplify efforts to target these consumers via foods and brands that appeal more directly to a Millennial demographic.

For instance, consumers aged 18–34 display the strongest interest in ethnic flavours. And a greater proportion of younger than older consumers indicate that it is important to them that cafés offer a variety of side options and seasonal menu items, according to Technomic’s U.K. Café Consumer Trend Report. Further, 31% of consumers aged 18–34 strongly agree that they would order limited-time offerings (LTOs) at cafés, compared to just 22% of all consumers polled.

Also watch for new mobile apps and digital tools that integrate seamlessly into Millennials’ lifestyle. Offering free WiFi in-store and letting customers place orders online are great starting points for connecting with these on-the-go, always-connected guests. Leading operators are also going beyond these steps.

Last spring, Wagamama partnered with Blippar, an image-recognition mobile application, to introduce augmented-reality place mats. Guests who downloaded the free Blippar app could hold their mobile device over (aka “blip”) the special place mats to access promotional information about the Wagamama Lounge, a pop-up concept featured at London-area summer music festivals.

Domino’s last September rolled out the free Pizza Hero app in the U.K., giving customers the chance to play professional pizza maker, rolling out pizza dough virtually, adding tomato sauce and then sprinkling on cheese and assorted toppings. A direct link takes users to the ordering page on Domino’s website.

And Apple’s Passbook lets iPhone users group their coupons, loyalty/rewards cards and more in one quasi mobile wallet—giving them quick access to their most-used or most-important passes. Last fall, casual-dining chain Harvester Salad & Grill became one of the first U.K. restaurant concepts to offer Passbook integration, and gave diners who used the app at Harvester £5 off when they spent £30.

The evolution of pubs

Classic British pubs will push even harder in 2014 to transform and grab market share from conventional restaurants by focusing more attention on creating upscale, premium food and drink (particularly speciality coffee and American craft beer); launching repositioned outlets in nontraditional sites; introducing web-enabled ordering systems that emphasise convenience and speed of service for guests; and promoting low-price-oriented menus and new loyalty programmes designed to spur customer traffic and strengthen the value perception.

Die-hard traditionalists might scoff at the idea of having a coffee and working on a mobile device at the pub, but a customer-centric evolution can help pubs maintain their relevance with a new generation of consumers.

Throughout 2013, we’ve seen examples of how pubs and pubcos are tackling the task of serving consumers who have higher expectations for food/drink, amenities and service at pubs. We expect the focus on this imperative to be that much keener in the year ahead.

For example, Orchid Group—whose approximately 250 pubs are now up for sale—realised that those establishments best positioned for success in Ireland and some U.S. cities after smoking bans took effect there were those that emphasised attractive food offerings. Orchid re-evaluated its menus and added pizza and Thai food, among other items, driving increases in food’s share of the sales mix. The company also took efforts to appeal to women.

Similarly, Marston’s PLC announced at the beginning of the year that it would install free Wi-Fi at about 550 pubs under its managed pub estate, Marston’s Inns & Taverns. The Prince George pub in Brighton, East Sussex, offers an all-vegetarian menu and a vegetarian-friendly wine list. And in August, Wetherspoon announced a new initiative pairing craft brewers from the U.S. with U.K. brewers, as part of an effort to seize upon U.K. consumers’ heightened interest in craft beer. The U.S. brewers produce their beers in the U.K. for sale at Wetherspoon pubs.

Honest chicken

Thanks in part to the recent crop of “better chicken” concepts opening in London, emerging chicken-focused concepts will flourish in 2014, a trend closely tied to growing consumer interest in sourcing, preparation and menu transparency. Pret a Manger, for instance, touts that its chicken is starch-free, phosphate-free and sourced from a higher-welfare supplier in Suffolk. Expect to see chicken increasingly described as “free-range,” “locally sourced” and “hand-battered.” We’ll also see more American influences in the form of barbecue chicken and buttermilk fried chicken, as well as simpler cooking techniques that let the quality of the chicken speak for itself.

KFC in the U.K. touts that its chicken on the bone comes from only British and Irish chickens, and that chicken goes from the refrigerator to a breading of flour and the chain’s 11 signature herbs and spices and then to the fryer within two minutes. Little Chef touts that its Crispy Chicken Platter features 100% chicken breast fillet.

Other takes on fried chicken include Scream’s Southern-Fried-Style Chicken fillets served with barbecue seasoned chips, Jubo’s Chicken Roll with Korean fried chicken fillet, kimchi slaw and gojuchang mayo, and Clutch’s Love Me Tenders, fried chicken tenders in a peanut and chilli crust.

These dishes also illustrate U.K. consumers’ growing appetite for spicy heat, also evidenced incurries that pack a little more punch than chicken tikka masala; the rising popularity of Mexican cuisine; and the cult-like following of London-based Nando’s, the fast-casual concept specialising in flame-grilled piri-piri chicken. Neutral-flavoured, food-cost-friendly chicken offers an ideal protein platform for showcasing the vibrant flavours and colours of chillis from around the globe.

Migration of street food

Fueled by younger consumers’ demand for authentic and unique offerings, chefs are looking to global street foods for menu inspiration for their brick-and-mortar restaurants. Trendy street-inspired dishes starring on menus include Venezuelan arepas, Chinese jian bing and bao, Taiwanese hirata buns and Italian arancini.

KFC U.K. got in the game last year, introducing a limited-time Streetwise Sweet Chili Wrap featuring a chicken mini-fillet, sweet chili sauce, lettuce and cheese wrapped in a tortilla. And London-based fast-casual chain Leon introduced a Thai Green Chicken Curry box, featuring slow-cooked shredded chicken thigh, roasted aubergine and bamboo shoots served on brown rice.

Looking ahead, ethnic beverages like Mexican aguas frescas and horchata will carve out a wider niche on the menu. Also watch for dynamic flavour mashups from different cuisines and the continued growth of food trucks serving ethnic and fusion street foods.

Telling the sourcing story

Transparency is now top-of-mind for operators who want to keep customers confident in their brand. Use of eco-friendly food packaging, such as recycled or reusable cups or stemware, is increasing along with a growing commitment to ethical food sourcing. Next year will bring a surge in brand campaigns communicating quality and traceability. Watch for package logos denoting animal welfare standards, in-restaurant signs documenting supplier sourcing, and marketing initiatives focusing on the use of British and Irish products.

A good example is the Olive Branch Pub in Clipsham. Its website highlights a story about head chef Sean Hope’s recent lobster fishing trip, to source the freshest lobster for dishes such as grilled lobster Thermidor and a fresh lobster claw and tail meat with lobster tortellini. The site also provides a list of the pub’s suppliers and producers—not just the names of the farms but also the actual farmers with whom the Olive Branch works.

For its part, McDonald’s U.K. invited three young British farmers to get a behind-the-scenes look at operations inside McDonald’s stores as the part of its Progressive Young Farmer Training Programme. The mentoring-focused programme, according to McDonald’s, “aims to help young people looking to work within agriculture kick-start careers in the industry by providing them with the blend of farming and business acumen needed to succeed in today’s modern farming sector.”

The programme has the added benefit of providing a fresh, interesting supply-chain story that McDonald’s—which also announced in April that it was switching to serving 100% Freedom Food pork raised on farms that meet strict animal-welfare standards—can share with consumers.

Similarly, fast-casual burrito specialist Chipotle, whose Food With Integrity philosophy/sourcing model has won acclaim in the U.S., notes on its U.K. website that it uses Freedom Food chicken, Farm Assured beef and free-range pork.

Key Takeaway

The trends driving restaurant growth and innovation are all driven by consumer demands for transparency, high-quality and -flavour, and flexibility. Restaurant operators should examine and pay attention to these trends but follow the lead of their own customers and those they are trying to attract.


Is Lent a big event for operators?

February 14, 2013

Many Americans are beginning the 40-day period leading up to the Easter celebration. The rules for fasting can vary dramatically by which days and what types of food can be consumed. Some religious patrons abstain from all forms of meat and animal products while others make exceptions for food like fish, indicating that Lenten rules are evolving.

Although only part of our overall population observes Lent—about one-third of American adults, according to a 2009 study by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion—it is nonetheless significant to business. Operators should have a strategy in place to appeal to their customers and attract new customers or run the risk of losing visits to the competition.

Lessons can be learned from observing some major fast-food burger chains and their recent promotions.

fish1_500In addition to their signature Filet-O-Fish sandwich, originally developed for Lent, McDonald’s created new Fish McBites, leveraging smaller, shareable portions.

 

 

fish2_500Wendy’s went the “premium” route and promoted their Premium North Pacific Cod Fillet Sandwich, playing on a better-for-you approach.

 

 

fish3_500Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s went the route of “innovation” by creating a new Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich focusing on a healthier preparation approach.

 

 

Although it’s hard to say which menu item will have the greatest success, it’s clear that each of these strategies will provide customers with appealing alternatives and options that fit their needs during Lent.

For operators who don’t have the resources to create new products, calling attention to existing vegetarian and seafood products during Lent can show customers the importance operators place on their patrons’ beliefs. As more consumers seek healthful options, incorporating more seafood and vegetarian options will benefit all consumers in general and help to improve the overall perceptions of restaurant healthfulness.


Fantasy Football Restaurants

December 12, 2012

© 2012 Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All Rights Reserved.

Area bars ramping up to tackle fantasy football league business

On fall Sundays, beer, Buffalo wings and draft boards are king — especially if you are a fantasy football fan.

To entice those fantasy players to leave the comfort of their couches and PCs, Southwest Florida restaurants and sports bars are ramping up freebies and other gimmicks, all in an effort to build customer loyalty and boost business before the winter tourist season kicks in fully.

Analysts say fantasy leagues can reap benefits that last long after the first pick of the NFL draft.

“These leagues continue on throughout the year, providing the perfect reason for repetitive business for restaurants with multiple televisions and an atmosphere for the games,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president with Technomic, a Chicago-based food consulting firm. “There is great opportunity for restaurants to benefit from this.”

Fantasy football is a mostly online game, with supporting mobile apps, in which players create virtual leagues and “draft” actual professional players from NFL teams to form their own franchise.

With a team in place, players go head-to-head with each other every week, collecting points based on how well their drafted players perform in the actual pro games that week. Just like in the NFL, the fantasy team with the most points wins.

In this region, restaurant and bar owners estimate there are thousands of fantasy football participants, who tend to be rabid fans with more discretionary income than typical sports fans. To win their loyalty, venues have begun leveraging the innate advantage they have by offering multiple televisions for viewing multiple games simultaneously — together with NFL-related food and drink specials. The trick is to show as many games as possible, all at once, so fantasy participants can keep track of as many of “their” players simultaneously.

These guys are serious

At Siesta Key Oyster Bar on Oyster Boulevard, customers sit at tables based on the game of their preference each Sunday, said owner Keith Cipielewski. It is so serious that seating charts are coordinated a week in advance, so staff can coordinate which games will play on which of the restaurant and bar’s 15 televisions.

“It keeps us in touch with the locals,” Cipielewski said. “Plus it starts at a time that is traditionally slow for us, around the end of the summer, and brings more people in.”

SKOB, which is known for being a Chicago Bears fan hangout, also invites fantasy football players to a draft party every year.

Cipielewski said participants have received free merchandise, too, such as a punch card that rewards frequent customers with free beer.

Fantasy football benefits restaurants through the loyalty a fan feels to a certain establishment,” said Tristano, the Chicago consultant.

“For fans, there’s a reason to go back there now on a more repetitive basis for games on Monday, Thursday and Sunday,” Tristano said, referring to expanded NFL playing days throughout the season.

Restaurants have a really great opportunity to build on that loyalty through relevant promotions to keep them coming back.”

Gecko’s Grill & Pub, a Sarasota restaurant in the Landings, has done just that to capture repeat business. Fantasy football fans can win prizes such as free grills, deluxe tailgating chairs and club- level Tampa Bay Bucs game tickets every week, general manager Mike Ferrara said.

The restaurant also hosts its own football pool, in which participants have the chance to win free beer for a year by picking the most winners during the course of an NFL season. For the fantasy football draft itself, Gecko’s offered bottomless chips and salsa to all league participants.

“We try to amp it up all the way to Super Bowl Sunday,” Ferrara said. “It seems like everyone is on a fantasy football league these days, so we want to entice them to keep coming back.”

Chains in on action

Local bars and restaurants are not the only ones trying to capitalize on fantasy football.

In 2010, pizza chain Papa John’s hosted a contest on its Facebook page, asking players worldwide why they thought their league was the best.

The contest winner received an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2011 NFL Draft in New York City. This year, adult arcade chain Dave & Buster’s hosted league parties that included a free pro football weekly fantasy football guide and a free CBS network draft kit. Buffalo Wild Wings, likewise, gave away draft kits that contained league championship pennants, draft boards, player stickers and koozies. Sandwich maker Quiznos offered free fantasy draft boards on its Facebook page that leagues could use during at-home draft parties. The chain also included coupons, like 20 percent off catering purchases of $50 or more, and $5 small sub combinations.

A declining fan base?

But it is sports bars that have really gone after fantasy football leagues as a way to boost business.

At FinnDaddy’s, a sports bar on Beneva Road, the fantasy football crowds have thinned this year, but the bar still draws a decent crowd, owner Mark Lapidus said.

“It could be my competition is cheaper or more people are just staying home,” he said. “We still have good locals, though, that come in every week to watch all of their players.”

Each year, Lapidus hosts draft parties for local leagues, where he offers less-expensive prices on beer and food and gives out complimentary draft boards. But with the success of fantasy football has come a flood of competition, making it more difficult for bars and restaurants to keep regulars coming back.

“There are so many kinds of players trying to get in on the big- screen business that it is causing the crowd that’s looking for the games on Sunday to be splintered up through all the alternatives,” said Michael Terry, a professor with the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality.

“It’s not just local sports bars anymore, but the buffalo wing chains and even the newer craft beer bars,” he added. “They are all taking a piece of this pie.”

At the Gecko’s on Clark Road in Sarasota, NFL viewing has fallen victim, somewhat, to demographics. General manager Mark Stewart says more people come in now to watch college football games on Saturdays. His theory is that fewer people in Southwest Florida have a pro team to cheer for.

“The problem is that no one in Sarasota roots for the home team,” he said. “No one is from Florida, so they’re fans of teams in other states. But for college football, people are ready to root for Florida or Florida State.”__


South Florida restaurants stagger promotions through slow summer months

September 11, 2012

By Justine Griffin, Sun Sentinel, 9:01 PM EDT, June 14, 2012

South Florida restaurants are looking for new ways to keep customers coming back through the hot summer season.

It’s a cycle that the restaurant industry in South Florida has come to anticipate as the snowbird community heads north in late spring. This year, more restaurants are using summertime holidays, likeFather’s Day, as a way to bring people back into their dining rooms.

“You’re seeing more restaurants crafting discounts around summer holidays and events, like Cinco de Mayo and Father’s Day, when people are more likely to go out,” said Darren Tristano, the executive vice president of Technomic, a restaurant consulting firm.

Big City Tavern on Las Olas Boulevard and City Oyster & Sushi Bar in Delray Beach are offering Father’s Day promotions for the first time this year, said co-owner of Big Time Restaurant Group, Todd Herbst.

“We decided we wanted to try something different this year,” Herbst said. “Mother’s Day is always a big holiday for us, but we figured we would try and see how Father’s Day would hold up in comparison.”

The average person will spend $117 on dad for Father’s Day, according the National Retail Federation, as compared to the $152 per person spent on Mother’s Day.

All four Big Time Restaurant Group establishments will be offering 50 percent draft and bottled beer with the purchase of an entree on Father’s Day, and kids under 10 eat free. Big Time also owns Grease Burger Bar and Cellar Wine Bar & Grill in West Palm Beach.

“Slow seasons give restaurants ample opportunity to promote new products, where customers can go out and try new dishes,” Tristano said. “It gives customers just one more reason to go out.”

Big City Tavern in Fort Lauderdale will be pushing their endless mimosas on summer lunch menus and wine down Wednesdays, which offer half off bottles of wine under $99, Herbst said.

“All of this is geared toward locals,” Herbst said. “We get a steady stream of tourists who come in, but we want to have something to offer those that live here.”

Mario Ristorante Italiano and Wine Bar in Coconut Creek is offering a summer weekday dining promotion for the first time in the restaurant’s five-year history, said owner, Mario Spina.

“The last few summers have been the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Spina, who’s worked in the industry in South Florida for more than 30 years.

The promotion is a three-course dinner for $26.95 offered Monday through Thursday between 5 and 6:30 p.m. The savings are more than 30 percent off the regular priced items on the menu, he said.

Tundra, an ice-themed restaurant that opened late last year on Las Olas Boulevard, recently dropped menu prices by 20 percent to keep locals coming back, owner David Berman said.

Palm Beach Restaurant Week showcased several dozen restaurants in the county last week. Miami Spice, a month long dining out promotion, will run Aug. 1-Sept. 30, and Dine Out Lauderdale runs Oct. 1-Nov. 8.

Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Boston Market Corp. Lines up Limited-Time Deals in Bid to Get More People in the Door

July 18, 2012

By CATHERINE TSAI, 20 June 2012, (c) 2012. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

DENVER (AP) – Boston Market Corp. plans a string of summer deals and giveaways to lure customers, especially younger ones, in a competitive market.

The campaign was built to show how the chain can fit into people’s lifestyles.

“It’s not just food that goes in your belly. It can be part of something you can experience,” said new chief brand officer Sara Bittorf.

Already the chain has introduced a summer menu with barbecue chicken, highlighting a sauce that launched last year. Now through July 29, kids under 12 who come in wearing a team uniform get free dessert when they buy a kids meal. During part of the Tour de France, people who ride their bicycles to Boston Market can be eligible for discounts.

It also is holding a sweepstakes with a trip to Maui as the grand prize. Finally, in August, an extreme sports athlete who is a fan of Boston Market will host a giveaway. Bittorf wouldn’t divulge details, but skateboarder Ryan Scheckler was recently quoted saying his ideal last meal would be from Boston Market.

The goal is to build on a reputation as a trusted partner for providing wholesome meals while also drawing younger customers, Bittorf said.

“I believe very strongly that the Boston Market brand has the ability to reclaim the position it owned 15 years ago, when it reinvented the home meal replacement category,” Bittorf said. “It wasn’t just the people who sold you food, it was a solution to your everyday dinner dilemma. It made your life a little easier. We’ve lost a little bit of that over the years.”

The company started as Boston Chicken in Newton, Mass., in 1985. Since then it has been through a name change, a trip through bankruptcy court and ownership for a time by McDonald’s Corp.

An affiliate of Sun Capital Partners acquired the company, now based in Golden, Colo., in 2007. It doesn’t release annual revenues.

The company faces competition on multiple fronts, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of the food industry research firm Technomic Inc.

“Competition from Mexican, Asian and burgers, in particular, have really impacted their ability to grow,” Tristano said. “Then you talk about competition in chicken, not just from KFC and Chick-fil-A but also Costco, Sam’s Club, Safeway, because everybody has rotisserie chicken. It’s made it harder to be innovative and competitive.”

Now it needs to find a way to hook more young, single people with grab-and-go food, not just harried parents, Tristano said.

While it has long offered more than chicken, Boston Market is looking to add more menu items, perhaps around the first of the year.

It has a catering business, but it also is testing delivery in New York City. “It’s on our radar. We’re trying to figure out how to make it work in less dense areas,” Bittorf said.

The chain is even looking at whether to offer food trucks. “Certainly the trend has not escaped us,” Bittorf said. “We would come at this from different approach. Imagine you are a commuter and you get off the train at the end of a long day, and there’s a Boston Market food truck with food you pre-ordered, and you can pick up a meal and go home.”