Chipotle

Trickle-Down Theory

There was a time when the only place you could find Black Angus beef on a menu was at some of the nation’s finest steakhouses. But these days, Angus burgers are served at McDonald’s, Back Yard Burgers, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, and Smashburger and are just one of many fine-dining menu items, ingredients, and techniques that were adopted by quick-service and fast-casual restaurants over the last decade.

Insider Fast-Casual Favorites

I am often asked what I think are the hottest or best fast-casual concepts. I think it’s important to tackle that question from the consumer perspective first. Like many others in the industry, I love checking out the competition. Over the last several years, many colleagues and I have made a point to visit as many concepts as possible whenever we’re together. Out of these 50 or more concepts, here are the ones that stand out the most. This list is based entirely on the quality of the experience and not buzz in the press or industry.

The New Kids’ Meals

Kids’ menus have come a long way from the days when they were little more than sandwiches, soft drinks, and small fries for the small fries.

As parents increasingly seek out food that is healthful and nutritious for their children, particularly in light of America’s growing childhood-obesity crisis, restaurants have sought to provide menu items that are not only good for kids, but also taste great.

Starbucks Twice as Good as McDonald's in Media Impact

Media measurement technology firm General Sentiment released its newest brand analysis, the Fall 2010 Fast Food Industry Report. The report highlights the brands that made the most significant media impact online between September and November. Despite declining nearly 20 percent since the summer, Starbucks still topped General Sentiment’s Impact Value rankings, more than doubling the totals of second and third place brands McDonald’s and Burger King.

2010 in Review

Reporting by Blair Chancey, Sam Oches, Daniel P. Smith, Robin Van Tan, Barney Wolf & Lori Zanteson

1. BK Sold to Brazilian Investors

Becoming the decade’s biggest restaurant buyout, No. 3 burger chain Burger King Corp. was acquired by 3G Capital, a New York firm backed by Brazilian investors, for $3.3 billion in September. —BC

2. The Food Truck Obsession

Rich Get a Taste for Fast Food

Wealthy consumers are checking their income levels at the fast food door and flocking to quick serves.

According to a recent study by American Express Business Insights, ultra-affluent consumers increased quick-serve spending by 24 percent in the second quarter of 2010, as compared to the same quarter last year. Ultra-affluent customers are defined as those who charge more than $7,000 per month on their cards.

The 30-Day Challenge

Sharon Olson, president of Olson Communications, tests her will and waistline in a month-long experiment in which she only eats food from the top quick serves in the nation.

Pages