Quick Bite: Dairy Queen first QSR to offer light smoothies
For any brand–quick service or not–being a pioneer is often the ultimate dream. And this week, Dairy Queen is making this dream a reality as it becomes the first quick-service restaurant in the industry to offer light smoothies.
The new product line comes as part of the national rollout of Orange Julius Premium Fruit Smoothies to the brand’s 4,000 Dairy Queen units across the U.S. and Canada. It features eight flavors: Orange, Strawberry, Strawberry Banana, Tripleberry, Mango Pineapple, Berry-Pom, OrangeBerry, and Piña Colada.
To promote the Light and Premium Fruit Smoothies, the company has launched the first national television campaign in Orange Julius’s 87-year history, as well as print, digital, social marketing campaigns.
Read more from the source: qsrmagazine.com
Gluten-free: a must-have menu staple or a passing fad?
The worldwide market for gluten-free products is nearly $2.5 billion. And according to Packaged Facts, a Rockville, MD based research firm, the gluten-free market will exceed $5 billion by 2015.
This consumer demand for gluten-free products has been driven by several factors, originating with a rise in diagnosis of celiac disease. While only about 1 in 133 Americans has celiac disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, many more consumers have adopted a gluten-free diet or choose gluten-free products as part of a “healthier” diet choice.
Many progressive retailers are seeing results from their gluten-free initiatives.
Several restaurant chains are also beginning to cater gluten-free customers, citing an increase in demand, Nation’s Restaurant News reported May 25.
- Chevys Fresh Mex unveiled a new gluten-free menu in May at approximately 42 corporate locations. The menu was developed in conjunction with Healthy Dining, a consulting group. The chain has also implemented a staff-training program in order to reduce the risk of contamination.
- Chuck E. Cheese’s began testing gluten-free items at six restaurants in Minnesota in May. The pizza is made off-site in a gluten-free facility and is packaged in special, pre-sealed packaging that is removed only once the pizza has been delivered to the consumer in order to reduce the risk of contamination.
- P.F. Chang’s China Bistro has had a gluten-free menu for several years. Items are made using separate cooking implements, and are served on plates with a special logo to ensure that they are delivered to the proper patron.
Still, there are still a lot of mysteries surrounding what constitutes a gluten-free diet, including whether its health values have merit for those not diagnosed with celiac disease.
The varying strategies that restaurants are testing reflect a consumer-focused–but cautious–approach as the gluten-free diet market continues to take shape.
With consumers becoming more health and weight conscious, many high-profile quick-service chains are jumping into fruit cart mode to live up to these demands and expectations. As noted in a recent QSR Magazine article, Americans are now eating more fresh fruit than ever. From 1980 to 2009, the average consumer went from eating 106.2 pounds of fruit annually to 127.5 pounds annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A, Panera Bread, Arby’s, and Corner Bakery are a few of the many quick serve restaurants that have already jumped on the fresh fruit bandwagon. From side items to salads to smoothies, these chains are finding new ways to incorporate fresh fruit into their menu offerings.
One of the most recognizable chains—that’s better known for burgers and fries than fresh produce—decided to incorporate a side of fruit into all kids’ meals as a standard element. Although McDonald’s has offered apples as an add-on since 2004, the chain’s decision to make a bag of apple slices a consistent component of the Happy Meal further underlines the company’s broader health initiatives targeted at younger consumers.
“McDonald’s wants to help support parents in encouraging their children’s habit of eating produce at meals,” says McDonald’s USA’s family category marketing director, Molly Starmann. “By automatically including them, McDonald’s is offering parents and kids a balance of the foods that are good for them along with the foods they love.”
So if you aren’t as far ahead as McDonald’s, here are a few things to consider:
- Many restaurants provide a limited-time option, which allows for testing the appeal of the produce offered.
- Both the suppliers and the operators can experience great success when a restaurant finds a fruit that fits with its brand.
- To ensure the freshness of the fruits, there are a variety of tactics operators are using. Some choose fruits that are picked prematurely so that they ripen in transit. Others employ the flash-freeze method to lock in the flavor and freshness. Some are still using a variety of chemicals to keep the fruits fresh.
The fruit offering option is opening a whole new window for quick-service restaurants. As with any other menu offering, the fruit option has to fit with the brand for the results to be successful.
The occasion is ripe to add some fruit options to your menu. Better start picking.
Photo credit: Derek Thomas
Many QSRs of late have shifted their product mix and subsequent marketing efforts to focus on fresh, quality ingredients. Most notable is Wendy’s, who recently launched “Wendy’s Way” to showcase consumer choices and the benefit of quality ingredients and fresh preparation. While Wendy’s has the scale to roll this out in a big way, there are many localized establishments that are built around this premise and serve fresh, high quality ingredients to customers every day. One such establishment in the southern suburbs of Kansas City is Unforked.
While some may not think of Kansas City as a restaurant mecca like larger cities, there certainly are many gems. With one location, Unforked has established itself as a quick serve with a commitment to quality and innovation. They put a stake in the ground and judging by the packed house on a recent Saturday afternoon, it’s resonating with consumers.
Unforked’s mission and core values are simple and to the point:
- To provide unparalleled flavor, high quality ingredients and nutrient-packed options for diners (dine in, catered and drive-thru) in a quick service environment.
- Practice sustainable innovation in all areas of operation.
- Provide quality meats and culinary care equivalent to the White House or a Five Star restaurant.
- Take full responsibility for the food we serve.
- Provide transparency regarding food origins and menu item ingredients so diners can make informed food decisions.
- Buy, promote and support local ingredients first.
All aspects of the business reflect the promises above. The décor is sleek yet comfortable and inviting. The menu is unique and innovative and the food is colorful–it pops against the neutrals of the décor. It all screams “fresh” and if you go on to their website, you can see which local farmers and businesses they support.
Unforked doesn’t have a multi-million dollar advertising campaign behind it, but that fits right in with the character of the brand. They know why they do what they do and their actions are convincing enough. Unforked is an example of a one-chain restaurant, adding some good to the world.
Do you know of any larger QSRs or fast casual chains following the same principles?
With McD’s now replacing toys with fruit in their Happy Meals, it might be well for everyone in the category to reexamine their “healthy strategy.”
Although I am sure that there are many more than three reasons to have healthy options on your menu, here are my Top 3:
One—Healthy is a Veto Item. No chain can afford to lose customers because one person in a group of four vetoes the majority’s choice. Steak houses have fish and fish restaurants have beef options. QSR is painted by many critics as an unhealthy option. For this reason, a chain not only needs healthy options, but they need to be promoted enough that they are top of mind with potential naysayers.
Two—Healthy Attracts a Broader Customer Base. Take Millennials for example: Research shows that they are more likely to frequent restaurants with healthy choices. And, children are being taught in school how to eat healthy…not to mention that they are as quick to comment about their parents’ unhealthy food choices as they are about smoking or seat belts.
Three—It’s Profitable! Healthy options tend to be less price sensitive, yielding higher gross profit margins. Where your quarter-pound cheeseburger may have to be within pennies of your competitors, customers looking for a healthy choice will pay a little more.
In a recent Technomic study, QSR chains that had high awareness of healthy choices were cited by consumers as a favorite place to go. They were also viewed as offering better value and better choices for children.
Here’s the one caveat: it appears that for most chains, “healthy” drives a lot of positives EXCEPT FOR sales. While consumers rate healthy choices very high on their list of desires, they don’t spend anything near as much as they indicate they will. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to “make the statement;” it just means you need to count on the basics for making your numbers.
Photo credit: Kevin Marsh
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
With recent studies suggesting there is a discrepancy between restaurant-goers’ intent vs. action when it comes to ordering healthfully while dining out, restaurant operators are faced with the consumer demand of healthy offerings and the likelihood of those items being passed over when it comes time to order.
Technomic Inc.’s Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report found that while “nearly half of all consumers want healthier menu items, only about a quarter of them actively consider nutrition when dining out.”
As a recent article in QSR Magazine states, consumers “seem to present restaurants with a predicament: disappoint and risk losing customers by not offering healthy menu choices, or invest time and money in offering healthy menu choices that are unlikely to draw many customers.”
Consumer researchers predicted healthful eating habits as one of the largest trends for 2011, and restaurants aren’t wasting any time reacting to this changing consumer inclination. According to Mintel’s study on “Healthy Dining Trends” from May 2011, healthy dining at restaurants has been driven by consumer interest in healthier options, the rising rate of obesity and quite possibly the most impactful driver—the U.S. government. The federal mandate to disclose calorie count and nutritional information is requiring restaurants to bring a new level of transparency to their menus.
Mintel’s study found “while 62% of restaurant-goers are aware that restaurant chains are going to be required to post calorie content on menu boards, its impact on consumer choice is up for debate; just more than half say calorie counts on menus will encourage choice of lower-calorie options.”
Even with these findings, many restaurant operators are adding healthier, lower calorie options in preparation for consumers’ shocked reactions when they see the steep calorie count of their favorite item. Some are even taking it another step further by integrating tools to satisfy health-conscious consumers.
- A year ago, regional chain Burgerville began printing calorie, fat, carb, and fiber content of specific orders on customer receipts as part of a program called Nutricate.
- Fresh to Order implemented SmartMenu which is the only self-ordering system to allow customers to customize meals based on dietary needs associated with high blood pressure or diabetes and taste preferences by using an iPad tablet computer.
Consumers are definitely expecting restaurants to join this healthy menu movement but as important is that taste isn’t disregarded. With consumers still keeping a tight hold on their wallets, restaurant operators will be faced with a complicated balancing act of delivering on this consumer demand while maintaining value propositions.
Photo credit: exercism
Every year marketers try to plan ahead. Think strategically about how to capture the small sliver of attention they desire from their consumers. Every year marketers experience a mix of things that didn’t work from past plans and things that turned out completely unexpectedly. So what can we prepare for this year? What changes can we make now to be successful?
One of the biggest realities we must all face is that consumers are keeping a tight hold on their wallets. With the recession lingering and the effects of an economy in turmoil have had on consumer’s spending habits; brands will need to look back at 2010 trends and adjust for the 2011 consumer.
In 2010, President Obama signed the health-care reform legislation into law. For the majority of QSRs, this meant a big change for 2011. Restaurants with 20 items or more on their menus had to start listing the caloric content of each item as of March 1st.
This may be a rude awakening to large QSR chains when their consumers have to face the reality of what they’re consuming and opt for different dining options. To counter, QSRs may not be able to afford to keep their prices low to offset the concern for the nutritional value of the food since commodity prices are constantly on the rise.
Restaurants such as Wendy’s and McDonald’s that place a lot of advertising dollars on promoting their value menus could suffer in the long run. A strategic shift to promoting new products, limited time offers and premium items may be a smart for long run success.
So what does this mean for your brand and your products? The root of the changes and adjustments being made across these categories lies in the changing consumer. Consumers aren’t showing signs of recovering from the recession, they’re evaluating every dollar they spend, and when it comes to a purchase, they want the most value for their money.
Constantly evaluating your consumer’s perception of your brand, their changing attitudes and demands of the products they buy, and social influences and trends surrounding their purchase decisions will keep you in the know of the changing market in which you’re marketing your products.
Photo credit: ebruli
Are you doing everything you can to appeal to the upcoming power generation: Millennials ages 18-30? If you think business as usual will do the job, read on.
According to the recent study by Barkley, SMG and The Boston Consulting Group, “American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation,” Millennials have some different priorities when it comes to grabbing a quick meal than the generations that preceded them.
While older generations are more about the basics—correct food temperatures, getting orders right, and being tidy, Millennials demand variety—exotic, interesting, and healthy food offerings served in a fun environment. Despite Millennials’ desires to get quick meals on the run, they don’t place a premium on speed.
The June 2010 issue of QSR Magazine reinforced that conclusion. National restaurant marketing consultant Lori Walderich, CEO of IdeaStudio, was quoted as saying, “Millennials are not willing to compromise their standards for their environment or their personal well-being. More often than not, they will choose quality over other factors such as value pricing,” she says. “And people assume that quality ingredients are more costly. Thus, consumers will accept a slightly higher price point for products such as Angus beef, fresh-roast coffee, fresh-baked bread, and hand-cut fries.”
Millennials also have different reasons for dining out than their elders. Even when they choose fast-casual restaurants, they are twice as likely to go out to eat because they want to gather with friends or family or socialize with co-workers or classmates.
So what’s the optimum QSR experience for Millennials? One that involves:
- A variety of interesting and exotic food options
- Fresh, healthy, high-quality ingredients
- A comfortable and welcoming environment to socialize
How do your offerings measure up?
Photo credit: Andres Rodriguez