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.
Chipotle Mexican Grill announced the return of its long-standing tradition and popular Halloween fundraiser known as Boorito. This Halloween, Chipotle will treat customers dressed in costume to a burrito, bowl, salad, or order of tacos for only $3 from 4 p.m. to closing. Proceeds from the fundraiser of up to $1 million will benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.
Sustainable practices are all the rage across the restaurant industry these days.
The expansive show floors at the National Restaurant Association’s annual trade show in May confirmed that the momentum behind these initiatives isn’t waning. From tableware and takeout containers to faucets, lighting, and cleaning products, green was the word. That also extends to the proteins most quick-service and fast-casual restaurants use as their menuboard centerpieces.
Chipotle Mexican Grill launched “The Scarecrow,” an arcade-style adventure game for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, along with a companion animated short film of the same name.
Both the game and the film depict a scarecrow’s journey to bring wholesome food back to the people by providing an alternative to the processed food that dominates his world. The game and the film were created in partnership with Academy Award–winning Moonbot Studios and CAA Marketing, a division of Creative Artists Agency.