Christa Gala

Giving Drive Thru a Chance

Sometimes good business decisions are made on a whim, as was the case when Boston-based fast-casual burrito chain Boloco decided to open its drive-thru location in Warwick, Rhode Island.

“We took over a former doughnut shop that had a drive thru and we thought, ‘Do we keep it or not?’” says Paul Booras, regional vice president of operations for Boloco. “We don’t have a tremendous amount of institutional drive-thru experience, but our model is built to execute quickly. We thought it could work, so we tried.”

The Quest for Viral

At Arby’s, it was “legendary detective” Bo Dietl delivering a meat slicer to a competitor’s drive-thru window, reminding viewers and Arby’s fans that many competitors don’t slice on site. At Quiznos, it was a look-alike of famed gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi rating its Chicken Bacon Dipper sandwich as it sailed through the air and landed in a container of dipping sauce.

For both quick-service brands, these scenes, captured in video for TV and online audiences, successfully made fans laugh and created brand awareness, drove traffic, and inspired others to share.

A Six-Second Connection

Imagine a marketing campaign that’s created in five days and launched with minimal cost, a campaign that generates buzz and leads to an increase in sales. Too good to be true? Not at all; it’s marketing on Vine.

A&W Restaurants launched its Mini Polar Swirls in April through Vine, a social media application that invites users to create and share six-second video clips.

Value Isn’t Cheap

Could the dollar menu soon be a thing of the past? It’s possible, according to findings from market research firm Phoenix Marketing International. A new study from the firm finds that customers don’t mind paying higher prices at restaurants as long as there’s a perceived value in the item or bundled items.

After viewing quick-serve ads, participants were asked if they would visit that particular restaurant within 30 days. Ads with value messages drove 20 percent more participants to report an intent to visit than ads without value messages.

Breaking Up Is Not Hard to Do

Sometimes, parting ways can be advantageous.

In May 2012, Fiesta Restaurant Group, owner of fast-casual brands Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana, split from Carrols Restaurant Group, the nation’s largest Burger King franchisee. Fortunately, there were no hard feelings.

“Originally, the idea was that the three companies would be worth more separate than they were together,” says Fiesta Restaurant Group CEO Tim Taft. “Since then, that thesis has been proven correct in light of the stock performance of both companies.”

Focus On the Values

Panera Bread’s “Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously” platform, which launched in late February after nearly a year of testing and research, is a first for the brand. Rather than touting Panera’s products, it focuses on the concept’s philosophy.

“We really wanted to talk more about why we exist as a company, rather than simply talk about what we do, which is make good soup, salads, and sandwiches,” says Michael Simon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Panera Bread.

The Perfect Match

Finding a great employee—much like finding a significant other—isn’t always easy. That’s why some operators are turning to online tools like Shiftgig for help seeking out the most compatible workers on the market.

While many hiring platforms, such as PeopleMatter HIRE, assist with interview screening, onboarding, and scheduling, Shiftgig aims to directly connect employers and job seekers on a free social media–like platform, says founder Jeff Pieta.

Double Trouble?

Tony Holmes had a problem: The drive thru at his high-traffic Chick-fil-A restaurant in Apex, North Carolina, was too crowded.

For nearly two years, he tried line busting with employees outside wearing headsets. Then he gave those employees handheld remote units to streamline ordering. Both methods helped alleviate the drive thru’s bottleneck, but there were other issues that technology and manpower couldn’t address.

So in November, Holmes installed a dual drive-thru lane.

Back to the Beverage Basics

Gordon Muir had an epiphany while looking through old photos of The Varsity, an Atlanta-based quick-serve chain established in 1928 by his grandfather Frank Gordy. In the photos, he saw in-store banners and buttons advertising the brand’s noncarbonated beverage, Varsity Orange.

“And I thought, ‘Man, we’re not doing that,’” says Muir, president of The Varsity. “We were really missing the boat. Our gross profit is so much higher on that product because we make it in house every day and have for 80 years.”