Pumpkin has long reigned as king of the fall, but this year, limited-service brands are not just adding a pumpkin pastry and calling it a season. Instead, several quick-service and fast-casual concepts introduced non-pumpkin products and innovative spins on the pumpkin flavor, while also launching creative marketing campaigns to bring customers in the door.
The back-to-school season signals a return to more regular meal routines for families, and quick-service and fast-casual restaurants are working hard to be a part of those routines. Many limited-service brands are entrenching themselves in and around elementary schools, high schools, and the lucrative university market as students across the U.S. head back to school.
Limited-service brands today are increasingly trying to figure out how to effectively market to their older customers while continuing to attract Gen Y/Millennial (born between 1980 and 1994) and Gen Z (born after 1994) customers.
While tipping has never been a customer expectation in the limited-service restaurant industry, some chains have implemented gratuity options with their new, higher-tech point-of-sale systems, like counter payment terminals or mobile apps. But not every brand is certain whether tipping is appropriate in the category.
The New Miami Subs Grill has already undergone one major change in its 26-year history, having been rebranded from its former Miami Subs moniker after a new ownership group took over the company in 2007.
Now the chain is rolling out more premium extension brands, Miami Grill and Oh! Miami Grill (OMG), following in the footsteps of other limited-service companies that are updating their concept to appeal to younger consumers.
While the majority of the restaurant industry is still trying to figure out how to leverage Google Glass to enhance operations, at least two limited-service operators have successfully used the new technology for training employees.
KFC, part of Yum! Brands, and Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, a 104-unit chain based in Las Vegas, have tested Google Glass for training purposes. While the popular technology was previously only released to 8,000 users that Google selected via Twitter, Google recently offered Glass for sale for one day only.
Fast casual has dominated foodservice success stories in recent years, with the category sporting an 11 percent sales hike in 2013, according to Technomic. That success has inspired several traditional quick-service brands to jump on the fast-casual bandwagon with wholly new sister brands, the latest example being Taco Bell with its new U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom brand.
With its edgy “Day of the Dead” theming and upscale fusion menu items, U.S. Taco Co. aims to stand out from both Taco Bell as well as other fast-casual operators.
In an attempt to elevate their menu offerings, some quick-serve chains are teaming with professional chefs to revamp and upscale their food and beverage products.
Atlanta-based Great Wraps; Greensboro, North Carolina–based Biscuitville; and Emeryville, California–based Peet’s Coffee & Tea are three brands that have recently hired seasoned chefs to spearhead new-menu campaigns.
Quiznos and Sbarro this month became the latest two quick-service chains to file for bankruptcy, the result, experts say, of not being able to keep up with the growing competition in their respective categories.
As winter storms continue to wreak havoc in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast U.S., a bleak sales picture among limited-service restaurants is starting to emerge.
Foodservice sales in the regions most affected by snow and ice storms dropped between 7 and 8 percent in January and February, according to foodservice consulting firm Technomic. National foodservice sales declined between 3 and 4 percent overall as a result.