Chick-fil-A

Year of the Brand

In this last Brand New Perspectives of 2012, I’m breaking from my usual Q&A format to recap some of the most important brand developments in fast food this past year.

Despite the sluggish economy and uncertainty that typically accompanies election years, companies in our industry chose to make some of their boldest moves in 2012, and some exciting new chains took the stage. Here are my picks for the seven biggest brand stories of the year.

Chick-Fil-A Takes the Title of America’s No. 1 Chicken Chain

Chick-fil-A tops the list of favorite chicken chains, according to a national study from Market Force, a worldwide leader in customer intelligence solutions. Chick-fil-A was voted America’s No. 1 chicken chain in a restaurant industry survey of more than 7,600 consumers. Raising Cane’s and Boston Market were ranked second and third, followed by El Pollo Loco, Zaxby’s, Popeyes, KFC, Wingstop, and Church’s Chicken.

Chick-fil-A Preps for Holidays with Calendar, LTO Milkshake

Just in time for holiday gift giving, the Chick-fil-A "Eat Mor Chikin" Cows are saluting 12 of history's most famous "moonarchs" with the debut of the 2013 Cow Calendar. These regal bovines aren't the only reason the restaurant chain is celebrating this season. Chick-fil-A's ever-popular Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake will also make a long-awaited return as a limited-time flavor at restaurants nationwide.

2012 QSR Drive-Thru Study

How the best drive-thru operations in the industry make the wheels go ’round.

Taco Bell has the second fastest drive thru in quick service.

The drive-thru operation of a quick-service restaurant may seem relatively cut and dried, but operators aren’t resting on their laurels when it comes to their outdoor business. For many brands in the industry, the drive thru can account for anywhere between 50 and 70 percent of sales—no small number in a $200 billion industry.

Drive Time

Breakfast is on a roll.

Even though most Americans prepare or eat their morning meals at home, an increasing number of them are opting for breakfast on the way to work, particularly at quick-service restaurant locations.

Nearly half of consumers visited a limited-service restaurant for their early meal last year, up from a third in 2009. So it’s no surprise that at least half a dozen quick serves launched breakfast dayparts in the past three years, while many others added new menu items.

The Dietary Restriction Playbook

When Marley Hodgson and Dan Long opened their first Mad Greens eatery in December 2004, terms like gluten-free, lactose intolerance, and vegan were not foremost in their entrepreneurial minds. These days, however, the 11-unit, Denver-based salad chain finds itself regularly contemplating and catering to such dietary restrictions.

“While we were at first singularly focused on producing a healthy product that tasted good, we’ve extended that process with a greater focus on nutrition and the most common dietary restrictions our customers have,” Hodgson says.

Child’s Play

It’s a given that most American kids love pizza, burgers, tacos, hot dogs, chicken fingers, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Many of these are also the types of food that can come under fire from parents and nutritional experts who worry about what kids are eating, particularly considering the growing problem of childhood obesity and other related illnesses.

Starbucks Holds $87.4M in Impact Media Value

Starbucks is the top quick-service restaurant brand with $87.4 million of Impact Media Value according to General Sentiment’s Q2 2012 QSR MediaMatch report.

McDonald’s ($39.4 million), Taco Bell ($38.7 million), Burger King ($37.4 million), and Chipotle ($29.5 million) round out the top five. The top six brands in the rankings have remained unchanged since the last report.

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