The quick-service market is saturated. It’s hardly a news flash, but it drives home the point that for a company to thrive in the space it must rise above the noise generated by a smorgasbord of competitors. When it comes to capturing market share, it’s less about who yells the loudest (think employees being sent street-side to wave sale signs at passing motorists) and more about which brands’ personalities leave a lasting impression on customers and make them want to come back for an experience unlike others.
Enter the skating Carhop, a SONIC Drive-In tradition and top-of-mind association with consumers. SONIC is unabashedly quirky–and in a good way. Customers enjoy the unique drive-in format, the popular line of plush kids’ meal toys shaped like Tots–and most importantly, the ability for its employees to have fun at work. You may be reading this at a desk or on a mobile device. Think of how much more fun you’d be having if you were reading while on a pair of skates.
The skating Carhop position is considered a brand treasure at SONIC. In order to celebrate it and promote it internally, the company hosts an annual competition each year to crown the top skating Carhop in the country. In addition to an online entry method, SONIC hosts regional submission events across the country to help Carhops get entered and give them an opportunity to shine. Last Saturday, one of those events took place in Phoenix. Amid the crowd of Carhop entrants, we spotted something not seen every day, a skating Tot–or “skater” Tot. It wasn’t there to wave down passing motorists, but simply to bring a little more joy to the crowd in classic, quirky SONIC fashion.
*Crossposted from the Crossroads blog.
The National Restaurant Association has identified some big trends that they anticipate will be hitting restaurants during the next year, according to a recent article in QSR Magazine. These trends were determined from a survey that was conducted with nearly 1,800 professional chefs in the American Culinary Federation. The survey findings show that we can expect to see an increase in locally sourced products and a focus on healthy/nutritious kids’ meals.
Neither one of those trends is new to anyone within the food industry as we’ve seen these areas grow over the years, but it looks as though they will be at an all-time high during 2012.
The locally sourced trend will focus on everything from meat and fish to fruits and vegetables to alcoholic beverages. The idea is for restaurants to support the members of their local business communities while highlighting seasonal ingredients.
Kids’ meals will focus on healthy side dish options, nutrition and whole grains. As attention to the healthiness of kids’ meals continues to grow, so does the awareness of nutrition overall. 55 percent of survey respondents said they’d offer a wider variety of healthier sides (fruits or vegetables) as a way to add more fruits/vegetables to Americans’ diets, while 19 percent said they’d add more produce to existing recipes and 16 percent would follow the MyPlate visual guideline where half the plate is used for fruits and veggies.
Many restaurants have already started to identify and work toward adopting some of these trends, but we can expect many others to jump on the local and healthy bandwagons in the very near future.
Photo credit: Natalie Maynor
Remember the days when the toy from a kids’ meal was the ultimate goal, the holy grail and the reason you dragged your parents to your local fast food joint? Well, it appears that kids’ meals are no longer just about the toy. More and more QSRs are making their kids’ meals less about the toy and more educational/family focused.
While working on a new advertising campaign (minus the King), Burger King has also decided to look at a new kids’ meal program. According to a recent article in QSR Magazine, Burger King recently announced it would be making the kids’ meal more family friendly with its BK Crown Program. The update will include new packaging (including a new crown) as well as more interactive games for the whole family to participate in. The new packaging has a more educational approach by focusing more on puzzles and mazes while promoting creativity. There are three new options – Brain, City and Treehouse. Luckily for the kids, the toys are still included.
But perhaps the biggest change is the emphasis on giving back. The packaging includes a code and directs kids/families to the new BKCrown.com. Upon arriving to the site, kids can learn about giving back to causes that support the environment, wildlife conservation and education. In addition, kids can plug in the code from their kids’ meal to vote in support of one of the four selected charities: DonorsChoose.org, Have it Your Way Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association and Wildlife Conservation Society. For each vote, one cent will be allocated to the specific charity. This new site gives kids the opportunity to make their own decisions and to make a difference in something bigger than themselves, something that kids today value.
Time will definitely tell if this new program will work as the desire of kids to make a difference continues to grow. The success lies in the hands of the decision makers – the kids. For now, the toy is just a bonus.