Actionable Insights From APT's Retail Practice

Will An Apple a Day Grow Sales?

August 24th, 2011 | Posted by JMarek in Restaurants - (Comments Off on Will An Apple a Day Grow Sales?)

Recently, the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press ran articles in which I was quoted regarding McDonald’s announcement that apple slices will replace some of the fries in its Happy Meal. McDonald’s move is both innovative and smart.

Here are five thoughts on why this move makes sense: (more…)

McDonald’s Evolutionary Testing

December 2nd, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Restaurants - (Comments Off on McDonald’s Evolutionary Testing)

McDonald’s is testing “Garden Fresh Wraps”, which appear to be the evolution of prior a new product concept they’ve been trying for awhile: a portable, chicken “non-sandwich”.  Of course, as with all QSR product tests, the big issue is incrementality.  Even if I sell a lot of the new product, did I sell less of something else on the existing menu?  It’s a tricky question that requires top-notch testing analytics.

More broadly, we love the idea here — if the first product in the concept doesn’t work in test (we assume), how do you tweak it and quickly retest?  Many QSRs could do this better, rather than just rolling what they’ve got regardless of the test results. As Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Johnson notes – without testing, well known brands run the risk of straying from their core strengths and losing customers.

Restaurants Get Social

December 1st, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Marketing & Media - (Comments Off on Restaurants Get Social)

Several high profile social media campaigns have made the news in the restaurant world, including Applebee’s Veteran’s Day campaign, Chili’s FourSquare chips & salsa promo, and McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Chipotle on Facebook Deals.

As these offers become more mainstream among major restaurant chains, the way restaurants invest in and measure social media will need to “grow up”, as we argue in this recent post on our media blog.

BK Extends Premium Testing

August 31st, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Restaurants - (Comments Off on BK Extends Premium Testing)

Here’s an interesting article from BurgerBusiness, talking about Burger King testing stuffed burgers in Indianapolis.  CEO John Chidsey says the idea came out of a lesson learned in the BK Ribs LTO:

Consumers are willing to pay higher price points for quality products

That might be true, but Burger King will need more data to back it up, to prove these premium product sales are truly both incremental to the business (not just cannibalizing other items) and, at least to some extent, sustainable over time (not just generating trial, then a quick fall to baseline — unless they can get the LTO pipeline strong enough).

After all, as the article points out, BK’s comps were down despite the rib LTO.  If this is to be a strategy that drives same-store growth, BK needs to test more product ideas and apply the analytical tools to sort out the true incremental gain. The same goes for CPGs and retailers who are riding a recent wave of LTOs popularity – nostalgia needs to drive bottom line gains, not just a quick, cannibalizing sales pop.

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.


Red Lobster and Testing in Washington Post

August 4th, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Restaurants - (Comments Off on Red Lobster and Testing in Washington Post)

Great article in yesterday’s Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein, covering the history and business applications of testing and calling out Red Lobster’s use of Test & Learn to drive significant improvements in their remodel program.

Testing at Kraft Foods

July 14th, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Testing at Kraft Foods)

Here’s a great commentary on Shopper 360 blog, regarding the In-Market Testing for Growth team over at Kraft Foods.  Kudos to Autumn and the Kraft IMTG Team!

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…

Cracking Breakfast

June 3rd, 2010 | Posted by JMarek in Restaurants - (Comments Off on Cracking Breakfast)

The crew over at Serious Eats did a taste test on fast food breakfast sandwiches, with an unexpected winner.  The interesting thing was why the winner came out on top: a freshly cracked and cooked whole egg.  They even mention the sound of “the magical crack that only a real egg could make”.

It makes us wonder… what’s the economic value of a real egg?  Could this be a differentiator in the increasing crowded breakfast game?  Now that’s a test we’d love to see run.

The former President of Subway’s Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust once said:

Some people think Test & Learn is a lot of nerdy analysis.  I think just the opposite – Test & Learn helps us to be maximally creative and risk taking.

It’s that attitude that identified Subway’s $5 Footlong (from among many tested ideas) and turned it into a massive nationwide success.  Hopefully, that’s the attitude Burger King is taking to its new rib offering, and its high-end offerings in general.

We don’t know if $7 to $9 ribs are going to successfully steal share from casual dining.  Conversely, we don’t know if ribs will confuse the customer as BK tries to compete at $1 and $5 price points.  But neither do industry analysts, despite their pronouncements.

Burger King, on the other hand, can know the answer, because they are testing it.  If they have the right analytics to cut through the noise and understand the real impact, they can find the great success despite the critics.  Or, they can “fail fast” and move onto the next test.