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This post is the third in a three part series on ideas that will shape restaurant performance in 2011.

Part Three: Marketing

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Happy New Year from all of us at APT’s Food for Thought. 2011 promises to be an eventful year in the restaurant space and we’ve heard a number of bets, top 10s, and guesses for what the year, and the strengthening economic recovery, will hold.

We’ve synthesized these ideas into a special series, in three parts, that we are launching below. Stay tuned over the next two weeks for more.

Part One: Menus, Value Meals & New Offerings

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Chipotle Drops Ad Agency

October 11th, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Marketing & Media - (Comments Off on Chipotle Drops Ad Agency)

The most interesting part of this article, in Ad Age, is the comments section.  The ad world sure doesn’t like it when a company drops the agency and brings creative in-house!

Chipotle’s position is interesting to us because it presents an ongoing challenge:  how do you keep the “green” message fresh, and how do you measure your success in doing so?  Promoting a central theme, like sustainable, local, organic ingredients, shouldn’t absolve a brand from measuring the dollar-and-cents success of their marketing activities.

As an aside, the “dress-as-a-burrito” promotion is a great example of getting killed on non-incremental promotions.  Maybe Halloween is the right time to talk about the two scariest words in the industry?!?

Taco Bell: What Does Value Mean?

August 9th, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Restaurants - (Comments Off on Taco Bell: What Does Value Mean?)

A couple weeks back, AdWeek printed an interview with Taco Bell CMO David Ovens.  In talking about Taco Bell’s value message, David made the distinction between “price value”, “abundant value” and “quality value”.  At the time, it just sounded confusing, but with the Cantina Taco launch I’m really warming to his distinction.  And to their value strategy overall.

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Making Green Make Green

July 29th, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Restaurants - (1 Comments)

UPDATE: A recent study in the grocery space concluded what many already know: more than one third of consumers polled remain leery of the exact meaning of a product labeled as ‘natural.’ It’s no wonder – as restaurant chains as well as other food retailers have skirted using phrases that imply health claims in favor of buzz words such as “premium” or “wholesome.”

Organic.  Sustainable.  Local.  Fresh.  Healthy.  In the restaurant world, these words mean different things, yet they are still lumped together under a general “green” umbrella.  Many restaurant chains seem to be chasing these ideas wholesale.  For restaurant companies to really differentiate themselves, they need to unpack these “green concepts” and figure out what their customers are truly willing to pay for. The best of intentions can lead to disastrous results, as Frito Lay recently realized. Sales of SunChips plummeted by more than 11% as customers responded negatively to new eco-friendly bags made of a material that was so loud, consumers likened it to a jet engine.

Before discussing further, we should say there are many good reasons restaurant companies may go in this direction:  beliefs, PR, employee morale, etc.  But as we think about measurement and analytics, we are primarily concerned about one dimension:  what’s the impact on consumer sales and loyalty? (more…)

Calories Count

July 28th, 2010 | Posted by CCorman in Restaurants - (Comments Off on Calories Count)

Between PR pressures and new legislation, restaurants are looking at a new metric: calorie counts per transaction. The rise of healthy eating means the fall of super-sizing, and fast-food chains have found themselves scrambling to introduce more items (think breakfast) and healthier options (like salads and smoothies). Of course, any change that erodes sales for some restaurants means a competitive advantage for others: a study found that when similar legislation was introduced in New York, revenue increased 3% at Starbucks stores where a Dunkin Donuts was nearby. Before these laws go into effect, restaurants have the opportunity to test out how and where calorie information will affect consumer preference. Those who do will be well-positioned to steal market share – and may stumble on the newest healthy trend in the process.

Today’s SmartBrief is Fresh

July 12th, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Restaurants - (Comments Off on Today’s SmartBrief is Fresh)

Related to the made-fresh-in-house opportunity we discussed a couple weeks ago, 3 of the first 4 articles in today’s Restaurant SmartBrief tackle various angles on sustainability and freshness (and the associated marketing!):

  • Chains Cast Nets in Search of Sustainable Seafood (featuring McDonald’s, Darden – The Wall Street Journal)
  • Wendy’s New Salad Line Signals a Fresh Start (QSRWeb)
  • Ex-McDonalds Execs to Launch Healthy Fast Casual Concept (Advertising Age)

What is your organization’s approach to the increasing demand for freshness and sustainability?  Innovate?  Follow?  Ride the backlash (I’m thinking of you, Double Down).  It’s another rich vein for restaurant testing…

Made Here, Fresh Today

June 24th, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Restaurants - (2 Comments)

I read the Momofuku cookbook last night, and strangely it got me thinking about chain restaurants.  David Chang tells the story about going from buying lo mien noodles to make ramen at Noodle Bar to learning to make them in house.  Is there an opportunity for chain restaurateurs from casual to QSR to differentiate better on this “in-house” dimension?

Of course, many chains already take advantage to some extent.  Krispy Kreme has the famous, and famously cool looking, in-store donut making machine.  At In-and-Out Burger, you see the whole potatoes being cut into fries (ironically, double frying from pre-cooked frozen probably makes best tasting fries, but from-fresh sure looks great).  Panda Express has built open kitchens and a see-through wall into their refrigerator to show their fresh vegetables.  Chevy’s made a name for themselves making tortillas fresh in “El Maquino”.  Panera and many bagel places visibly bake on site.  Subway famously brought that idea to a low-price QSR.

But there are many more ideas.  To brainstorm: (more…)