The limited-service restaurant industry is cashing in on diners’ New Year’s resolutions for healthy eating in a big way. At bagel concept Einstein Bros. Bagels, for example, January 1 marked renewed focus on the brand’s Smart Choices menu, which boasts a selection of better-for-you alternatives with less than 350 calories and 15 grams of fat.
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.
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.
Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks leased space in a New Providence, New Jersey, shopping center, marking its first deal in the Garden State since engaging Sabre Real Estate Group LLC last year as its exclusive broker for northern New Jersey.
The new Starbucks will occupy a 2,000-square-foot end cap in the recently renovated Village Shopping Center at 1260 Springfield Ave. It is expected to open early in 2014. The chain has 52 locations in the region. The nearest café to the new site is more than four miles away.
Baked goods have been a staple in the quick-serve industry for decades, but innovation in the space has boomed as several operators step up their a.m. offerings to compete in that increasingly lucrative daypart.
Coffee concepts are a natural fit for baked goods. In addition to a morning cup of java, many customers anticipate a variety of baked breakfast items behind the bakery glass case, from syrupy sweet cinnamon rolls to savory crusted quiche.
Evolution Fresh, the Starbucks subsidiary specializing in cold-pressed juices, made a splash earlier this month after announcing the opening of its first juicery in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Starbucks previewed the first-of-its-kind Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar in New York City’s Upper East Side. Opening October 24, the Tea Bar will elevate the premium tea experience by delivering a carefully curated assortment of handcrafted tea beverages, premium loose leaf teas, tea-inspired food offerings, and tea merchandise, making the ritual of tea more elevated and accessible for customers.
RSR Research unveiled the results of a benchmarking report entitled, “Digital Gift Cards: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.” This is the third time RSR has conducted an evaluation of top retailers’ digital gifting experiences. Based on the evaluation criteria, the retailers with the highest overall scores, and therefore the most comprehensive digital gift card offerings, are:
1. The Home Depot
4. Dunkin’ Donuts
5. The Cheesecake Factory
Starbucks Corporation announced that Troy Alstead, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer, has been promoted to chief financial officer and group president, global business services. Alstead’s promotion is a recognition of the increasing responsibility and complexity of his role overseeing Starbucks global financial, technology, and supply chain operations and ensuring that the company’s overall business infrastructure is optimized to support the company’s global growth.
Quick-service operators are launching seasonal menu items earlier this fall in an effort to beat their competition to the punch. From pumpkin doughnuts to caramel apple frozen yogurt, fall-flavored menu items are popping up across the industry even before the season has officially begun.
“We usually launch [fall products] in October. But this year, for the first time, we are bringing them out in September,” says Lafeea Watson, spokeswoman for Krispy Kreme. “That’s what the industry seems to be doing.”