Denene Brox

Winging It

It would seem strange these days to attend a Super Bowl party that didn’t have chicken wings available on the snack line. Wings are America’s “party food,” showing up at all manner of celebrations, from tailgating to graduation parties.

But now that party is extending to the quick-serve industry, with wings showing up on menus at concepts one might otherwise not expect to carry them. For example, Veggie Grill, a sandwich and burger concept, added wings in the spring of 2011. Taco John’s, a Mexican concept, did so in the fall of 2011.

How to Attract Top-Shelf Employees

It’s no secret that employee turnover in the foodservice industry is one of the highest in the labor force. But while many quick-serve operators view high turnover as an inevitable part of business, some brands are offering employee-focused benefits to reposition their concepts as long-term career options instead of the site of dead-end jobs.

Experts say positioning quick-service jobs like this is a smart move as the economy slowly strengthens and the workforce becomes more competitive.

Flex Casual: The Best of Both Worlds

Consumers today have an abundance of restaurant choices, and to stay competitive, quick-service operators must develop innovative strategies to remain profitable.

Some operators have found that they can attract more customers by operating as flex-casual concepts, offering quick service by day and table service by night.

Austin, Texas–based Pan-Asian eatery Mama Fu’s is one of them. When Randy Murphy, president and CEO, joined the company six years ago, he noticed a drop in sales after lunch and wanted to find a way to close the gap in profits.

The Push for Humane

With more consumers interested in knowing where their food comes from, a growing number of quick-service companies are either pressuring their suppliers to improve the humane treatment of animals or switching food suppliers altogether. Cage-free eggs, gestation crate–free pigs, and free-range chickens are showing up on more quick-service menus throughout the country.

Quick-service operators who are making the supply changes believe they are on the cutting edge of a growing movement as consumers with increasing access to food education care more about the origins of their meals.

Buyer Beware for Supply Chain Management

Recent national news about stolen meat making its way into restaurants causes most quick-service operators to shake their heads. It’s hard to believe that operators would take such risks with the safety of their customers and their own business hanging in the balance. But misguided trust in questionable suppliers does happen.

“When you count on people who are looking for ways to curb costs, an opportunity might present itself,” says Michael Werner, vice president of design and operations at Leap Hospitality, a Kansas City, Missouri–based restaurant consultancy.

500 Million Reasons to Launch Online Ordering

Facebook now boasts 500 million active users. The average Facebook user clicks the Like button nine times, writes 25 comments, and becomes a fan of two pages each month, according to Mashable’s Facebook Factlook. The average user also has 130 friends on the site—giving their Likes a wide reach of influence among friends.

Realizing the influence Facebook users have on their networks, a growing number of quick-service restaurants are taking their fan pages to new heights by incorporating online ordering directly through the Facebook interface.

Charitable Giving Isn't an Option, Consumers Say

Although the down economy has forced many operators to focus on the nitty gritty of business details and ignore the outside-the-store activities, customers still expect brands to stand for a good cause. According to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study, which analyzes consumers’ expectations and behaviors toward companies’ support of causes, 82 percent of Americans believe it’s important for the food and beverage industry to support social or environmental causes.

Customer Carousel

Work smarter, not harder; successful operators have paid attention to this adage recently more than ever. With rising food and labor costs and a competitive consumer market with less discretionary income, operators have had to get creative to fully maximize profits during the recession. Part of this creativity includes designing an efficient store throughput.  

Fast Food Fast

In the quick-service world, there is a clear expectation for customers who join the drive-thru or in-store queue: to get quality food fast. While the tough economy forced many restaurants to streamline business, experts warn that quick serves must remain just that—quick. 

“Speed of service is in direct correlation to your overall retail sales,” says John Scardapane, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based Saladworks.

Ties That Bind

Andrew Stern’s New York City–based company, Five Points Partners, owns franchises of several brands, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. After seven years as a franchisee under different brands, Stern knows the difference between a strong and productive relationship among franchisees and franchisor and a bad one.

One of Stern’s telltale signs of a great franchisor is the level of support offered by the brand—even during an economic slump when revenues and resources are low.

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