Christine Blank

From Bad to Good

Operators earn new customers by being open and honest with online reviewers.
Quick service restaurant brands leverage review sites like Yelp to sway customer opinion.
Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes is developing a company-wide protocol on responding to online review sites like Yelp.

Executives, store managers, and everyone else involved in a restaurant business dreads reading horrible online reviews of their company’s food, service, and atmosphere. But like them or not, reviews have become a significant part of the dining process, and recent research finds that review websites like Yelp! are an essential part of how consumers decide where to eat.

The Joy of R&D

Checkers/Rally’s head of development has deep company roots.
The senior culinary manager at quick service restaurant Checkers grew up in the company.
Checkers/Rally's senior director of R&D Ryan Joy grew up in the company, working for his dad Craig's franchise.

While most of his peers were attending football games and socializing on the weekends, Ryan Joy spent his teenage years working as many hours as he could at his dad’s Checkers franchise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Today, Joy continues to put in hours for the Checkers/Rally’s brands, but it’s not working for his dad Craig Joy’s franchise, which was the first franchise in the Checkers/Rally’s system. It’s as the senior director of R&D and culinary for the company, a position in which he’s helped the company develop a number of pivotal new menu items.

Beyond Pumpkin

Sure, pumpkin is king of the fall. But brands have other tricks up their sleeve this fall season.
Fast food brands jump on board pumpking flavor trend with innovative menu items.
Au Bon Pain's fall menu is comprised of a Pumpkin Croissant, Pumpkin CroisBun, Caramel Apple Bar, Pumpkin Pie Latte, and Oven Hot Turkey & Cheddar on 9-Grain Cranberry Ciabatta sandwich.

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.

Class is in Session

As back-to-school season gets underway, brands look to become part of students’ routines.
Chicken chain Wing Zone delivers menu items via electric golf cart.
To stand out in a crowded college foodservice market, Wing Zone is delivering its wings to students at Georgia Tech via an electric golf cart.

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.

The Great Divide

Everyone talks about Millennials, but real success lies in appealing equally to all generations.
Quick service restaurants attract Gen X, Baby Boomers, Millennials.
Papa Murphy's is reaching out to technologically savvy moms and families to appeal to multiple generations.

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.

The Tipping Point

Operators debate whether a gratuity option at the point of sale is right for their brand.
Quick service chains consider adding tipping function to point of sale.
Jersey Mike's new point-of-sale terminal gives franchisees the option of adding a gratuity request to customers' orders.

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.

A Cut Above

The New Miami Subs Grill to roll out premium brand extensions.

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.

Sizing Up Google Glass

Operators explore ways to leverage tech giant’s latest innovation.

Fast food operators use Google Glass product to train kitchen employees.
Capriotti's is testing Google Glass as a training tool in the kitchen.

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.

All Aboard the Fast-Casual Bandwagon

Taco Bell the latest quick serve to add a fast-casual sister brand.

Quick service brands open new upscale concepts to compete with fast casual.
Taco Bell's new U.S. Taco Co. brand mixes a more comfortable store environment with premium menu options to compete for fast-casual customers. Taco Bell

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.

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