Amy Sung

Buying into Booze

Fast-casual restaurants were once able to claim premium food, modern décor, and all-around upscale service as hallmarks of their category. But with more quick-service chains retooling in those areas to compete for post-recession consumers, fast casuals have been left to search for new ways to differentiate their brands.

For many, that search has turned up something typically better suited to fine- and casual-dining joints: booze.

Buzzwords, Defined

In the last several years, as consumers have become savvier and more educated about the food they eat, words like fresh, local, and artisanal have become the norm in the foodservice industry.

But with many companies throwing these terms around seemingly at will to try to differentiate their brand and resonate with customers, definitions have been grayed and misconceptions have been made. After all, many of these words still go undefined by regulatory bodies (unlike organic, which is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)).

Lessons in Facebook

McDonald's social media campaign nets up to four times its initial investment.

McDonald's supported the lunch daypart in its new Facebook ad campaign.
McDonald's used Facebook to try to lure workers to its restaurants for lunch.

Most brands have been on Facebook for years, but a campaign earlier this year helped McDonald’s prove that quick serves can achieve a big return on investment on the popular social-media site.

The fast-food heavyweight saw an increase in sales and guest counts after its campaign, which ran from April 17 to May 29 and encouraged people to take their lunch hour back and enjoy it at McDonald’s. The campaign’s return was up to four times the company’s initial investment.

The Trust Factor

Now that social media has become a ubiquitous part of society, a simple click of a button from an unhappy customer can tarnish the reputation of any business.

The same is just as true for a displeased or untrustworthy employee. As such, ensuring employee satisfaction, security, and training has never been more important.

Two Birds, One Stone

Brands combine ever-important healthy eating and philanthropic efforts.

Kids' meal purchases at Chipotle in August helped the Veggie U nonprofit.
Kids' meal purchases at Chipotle in August helped the Veggie U nonprofit.

Healthy menu options and philanthropic efforts have become expected weapons in every quick serve’s arsenal over the last few years. Now, major brands are increasingly figuring out how to kill two birds with one stone by combining those efforts.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, has helped spread the message about nutrition and sustainable agriculture in schools through a partnership with the Milan, Ohio–based nonprofit Veggie U.

A Stamp of Good Health

Third-party certifications, like Subway’s new Heart-Check mark, help extend brands’ health halos.

Subway's menu now features the American Heart Association's heart check.
Subway's menu now features the American Heart Association's heart check.

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The American Heart Association’s (AHA) heart-check mark that has been on grocery-store products for 17 years is now extending to the restaurant industry, with a certain sandwich chain paving the way.

Last month, Subway became the first restaurant chain to participate in the AHA’s Heart-Check Meal Certification program, a two-year pilot program in which menu items that meet the required nutritional criteria can display the AHA’s Heart-Check mark.