31Confident that fans need just a nudge to crave the fried chicken and biscuits that have been its nearly exclusive focus for 33 years, Bojangles’ is rolling into longtime markets with new marketing, a new look, and new locations. A Bojangles’ RV set off this spring on a South Carolina store tour, with price rollbacks at every stop. Meanwhile, headquarters used social media to foster connections. Renovations are under way, as is a franchising push.
32Buttered ground beef and high-fat frozen custard are hardly me-too products for a quick-service burger chain. So it shouldn’t be a shocker that Culver’s new lures include a sandwich of slow-roasted brisket dressed with barbecue sauce. The home of indulgence conceded to the segment’s price pressures by offering value meals as LTOs. But the focus has largely been on products distinct to the concept, like a BBQ ButterBurger, promoted through social media.
33The new owner of the Papa Murphy’s take-and-bake pizza concept said it’s not about to up-end the pie. Even before it took title of the chain, Lee Equity Partners indicated it would maintain existing management and continue the expansion blitz that brought 83 openings last year. “We are very excited about the expansion possibilities into areas of the country where they have little or no presence today,” says Lee Equity president Thomas H. Lee.
34At Jimmy John’s rate of product development, the next menu addition should come sometime in 2013. “We don’t rely on gimmicks, promotions, and new menu additions to fool people into coming in and buying our sandwiches,” founder Jimmy John Liautaud said when the Ultimate Porker sandwich was introduced last winter, breaking a four-year R&D hiatus. Meanwhile, the system keeps growing at the rate of 150-plus units per year—80 percent of them opened by existing franchisees.
35With a menu sporting more than grilled chicken-on-the-bone, El Pollo Loco is pursuing a new look. The franchisor said this spring that it would develop a “compelling” prototype with a lower investment cost than the existing format. The new look will be adaptable to a variety of sites, and for the new sandwich line or steak.
36Baskin-Robbins wants consumers to realize there’s more to the concept than 31 flavors. Like options that ease patrons’ fears they’ll be candidates for next season’s Biggest Loser. This year brought extensions of the scoop king’s lighter Brighter Choices line, described in terms like “premium churned,” “no sugar added,” and “reduced fat.” The efforts to expand the brand’s appeal coincide with the appointment of a new marketing director, Brian O’Mara, previously of McDonald’s.
37Competing with a marketing loudmouth like Taco Bell has to be tough for Del Taco, a chain less than a tenth the size of the segment’s Big Enchilada. The distant also-ran tried to stay on value hunters’ minds by showcasing new bargains, including a $1.49 soft taco kicked up Santa Fe–style with a salsa of roasted corn and black beans. A shrimp taco, replete with lime wedge, was dangled briefly for $1.89.
38In January, CiCi’s Pizza recast its marketing department as the Brand Value Group, run by a chief brand value officer answering to the CEO. In a segment known for deal-making, the chain wants to be the outstanding bargain. But how do you claim that niche when pies are selling for $5? CiCi’s is using its buffet as the pitch, alerting consumers they can access the pizza and salad spread for “5 bucks and change.”
39Boston Market may not be ready to get rid of its home-meal replacement strategy, the label it claimed (and coined, to much scorn) when it started growing. But after making its name with chicken dinners and homestyle sides, the brand is eyeing new turf. Rotisseries, a kitchen signature, now share space in some locations with fryers, which open the menu to french fries and chicken fingers. Experimental condiment bars sport tortillas and salsas. And a lunch push is under way.
40Now that everyone’s doing sliders, White Castle is touting the romance of its concept, one of the industry’s first quick serves. Among its more-talked-about offerings of the last few months was a candle that gave off the aroma of the chain’s signature mini-burger. Other attention-getters include the annual transformation on Valentine’s Day into a full-service concept with menus and tablecloths.