It’s that time of year. Time to look back and reflect upon the brand developments in quick service from the past year—from the surprising to the exciting and the defining—that seemed most important. Innovation and growth are a couple of the common themes among the top fast-food brand stories of 2014.
Acquiring new restaurant technology can be a tricky business. Because of ever-decreasing prices, an operator may not want to be the first to buy a new application or software system. Plus, no one wants to invest in untested equipment, regardless of its technological prowess.
It’s the conundrum befuddling limited-service restaurant operators the world over: How do you answer consumer demand for healthier menu items when so many customers are scared away by health-food claims? How do you help fight off the nation’s obesity epidemic when the entire business is designed around tasty, indulgent menu options?
Although the concept of consumers using their smartphones to pay for food at limited-service restaurants is nothing new, the mobile payment industry is expected to get a huge boost with last month’s launch of Apple Pay.
Panera Bread took a step into the future with the rollout of $42 million worth of ordering technology, dubbed “Panera 2.0.” The chain expects to better its customer experience inside and out with iPad ordering kiosks, mobile and online ordering interfaces, and a feature that lets guests order at the table.
These improvements could speed up the ordering process and cut labor costs, says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of research and consulting firm Technomic Inc.
Q: We're committed to offering a streamlined menu, so we don't want to introduce a bunch of new products. What other options do we have for creating news to promote our business?
A: Great question, especially in light of recent reports that suggest the quick-serve category has become so saturated with new products that brands are reaching the point of diminishing returns.
Panera Bread and Cleveland Clinic are teaming up this February in honor of American Heart Month. Starting on February 1, the 40 Northeast Ohio Panera Bread cafes are offering free coffee refills through the remainder of the month with the purchase of a $10 travel mug. A portion of the proceeds from these mug sales will benefit heart care at Cleveland Clinic.
The burger segment could learn a thing or two from its more malleable brother, the sandwich. Despite the surge of better-burger companies, consumers are not as satisfied with burger brands as they are sandwich concepts, according to a quick-service restaurant benchmark study from Empathica Inc., a Mindshare Technologies company.
Technomic has announced the winners of the 2014 Chain Restaurant Consumers' Choice Awards, which are based on consumer responses to the research and consulting firm's ongoing brand study.
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.