In the fast-food breakfast world, the carrier has long been king. From McMuffins to Croissan’wiches, burritos to breakfast wraps, flatbreads to breakfast paninis, and now—thank you, Dunkin’ Donuts—even breakfast sandwiches served on a glazed doughnut, fast-food chains have dedicated an inordinate amount of ingenuity to finding tasty, portable, hand-held ways to deliver the day’s most important meal to us with a minimum of fuss and mess.
Chipotle Mexican Grill partnered with restaurateurs Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson to launch a fast-causal pizza concept called Pizzeria Locale. The first restaurant is located in Denver and is based on a full-service pizzeria by the same name located in Boulder, Colorado. Pizzeria Locale opened its first fast casual location in partnership with Chipotle in May and is exploring options for second and third locations in Denver.
Chipotle is tapping into new consumer occasions with the recent national rollout of its catering program. The added operation allows the brand to compete in a different space with fast-casual concepts like Panera and Qdoba Mexican Grill that have established catering options.
Chipotle tested catering in select regional markets, including Colorado, earlier this year before implementing the program nationally in November, says Danielle Winslow, a Chipotle spokeswoman.
My year-end top brand stories recap was well received last year, and I decided to do it again. I’ll break from my usual Q&A format to recap this year’s most important brand developments in fast food.
A handful of quick-service brands released games for mobile platforms in 2013, and the apps proved to be more than just for fun. In fact, some brands are reporting increased sales and customer loyalty by integrating games within their apps.
Among the restaurant companies that found success this year with app games were Blimpie, McDonald’s, and Chipotle.
Despite a year filled with turmoil in Washington, the limited-service restaurant industry showed moderate growth and promise in 2013, thanks in part to creative new ideas and products, plus another good gain from fast-casual units.
With issues such as sequestration, a payroll tax increase, the government shutdown, and the Affordable Care Act hanging over the industry, it’s perhaps not surprising that gains have only been nominal, despite employment increases and an improving economy.
Beef, pork, poultry, and seafood may be the staples of the limited-service restaurant industry, but non-meat items aren’t taking a back seat on the menu these days. Although vegetarians make up a small percentage of the American dining population, an increasing number of consumers are deciding to eat less meat.
“Ten years ago, it might have seemed like a fad, with just a small population, but it’s been constantly increasing,” says Jesse Gideon, corporate chef and chief operating officer for Fresh To Order, a 10-unit fast-casual chain based in Atlanta.
Ordering a beer with your burger or a margarita with the taco special at your favorite fast-casual restaurant used to be a rarity, but more concepts are now offering alcoholic selections, from beer to signature cocktails. With the increased awareness and education of adult beverage culture in our society, consumers are expecting, even demanding, a better selection of adult refreshments with their meals, causing more fast-casual concepts to take a look at alcoholic beverage programming.
Last year, activists in California collected 1 million signatures to put the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act on the November 2012 ballot. Named Proposition 37, the measure sought to make California the nation’s first state to require the labeling of foods that included genetically modified organisms (GMO).
Consumers are bombarded with advertisements every day, from commercials during their favorite TV shows to sponsored Facebook ads on their newsfeed.
Rather than getting lost in the shuffle, limited-service brands are looking to a new approach to marketing to increase their brand awareness and build trust with consumers: content marketing.
Content marketing goes beyond the traditional promotions, menu development shout-outs, and marketing campaigns and provides a brand’s customers with content and information that they actually need and want.