Special Report | August 2011 | By Sam Oches

The 2011 QSR 50

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11/Chick-fil-A

Despite its closed-on-Sunday mantra, Chick-fil-A once again defied business odds and enjoyed another year of big-time success. While the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Spicy Chicken Biscuit won rave reviews from the company’s consumers, it was the new expansion markets that signaled big things might be on the horizon for Chick-fil-A. For the first time ever, the Atlanta-based company entered Los Angeles and Chicago.

12/Domino’s Pizza

The 14.3 percent same-store sales increase in Q1 of 2010 that Domino’s experienced after rolling out its New and Improved pizza recipe was no fluke. The brand maintained that high throughout the year and ended 2010 with a year-over-year sales increase of 9.9 percent.

Just how did they do it? Mostly by sticking to the same transparent, humble message that made the new recipe such a success in the first place.

13/Panera Bread

Rather than push product innovation and fight against quick serves’ takeover of the breakfast and coffee spaces, the No. 1 fast casual tweaked its consumer touch points and customer service. Drive thrus and table service were both tested, calorie counts were added to menuboards systemwide, and a new loyalty program, MyPanera, tracks consumer habits to craft personalized promotions and special offers for each user.

The most innovative—and unusual—move Panera made in 2010 was to open the Panera Cares Community Café in suburban St. Louis, a unit that offers food for whatever price customers feel like paying.

While some deemed the café a gimmick and had no faith in its success, company executives are happy with its results—enough so to open two more of them, one in Michigan and one in Oregon, with plans for more.

14/Arby’s

New Arby’s president Hala Moddelmog had a big task when she joined the brand in May. Arby’s was coming off 2009 when sales had fallen $150 million and store counts had dropped by more than 150 units.

A new value menu struggled to take off, and not even Moddelmog could help the stagnant brand. Sales dropped another $200 million, while the net store count dropped by 69 units in 2010. Things turned from bad to worse early in 2011, even after Arby’s launched its “Good Mood Food” integrated marketing campaign, when Wendy’s announced Arby’s was up for sale. In June, the brand was purchased by private equity firm Roark Capital Group for $430 million.

15/Jack in the Box

The masters of advertising (the company won another gold Effie Award for its Jack campaign), Jack in the Box rolled out several new menu options in 2010, including a Breakfast Pita, Pastrami Grilled Sandwich, Really Big Chicken Sandwich, and a Grilled Chicken Sandwich. The company also provided a new value opportunity on its menu; customers could choose three items from a list of eight that included a Hamburger Deluxe, a small fountain drink, and french fries, and pay just $3.

Next: QSR 50 Profiles 16 - 20

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