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.
Taco Bell Corp., a subsidiary of Yum! Brands Inc., announced several strategic leadership changes to support domestic and international expansion as part of its plan to become a $14 billion brand by 2022. Domestically, Taco Bell plans to add 2,000 restaurants by 2022, while adding 1,300 restaurants and an additional $2 billion in system sales internationally by 2023.
It’s fair to say that 2014 has been as eventful a year for quick-service restaurants as the industry has seen in quite a while. Changing demographics and sharper competition have sparked a variety of innovations, but also exposed some weaknesses. And the unrelenting march of technology is changing the restaurant business landscape, particularly when it comes to mobile phones.
There was a time when chains feared that offering their food in supermarkets would keep consumers away from the restaurants. But that archaic notion has gone by the wayside as quick-service brands are increasingly finding a great deal of success offering some of their products at retail.
It’s an oft-cited statistic: One in four Americans eats at a fast-food establishment each day—that’s nearly 79 million consumers, considering the latest national population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. And depending on one’s definition of “fast food,” that number could edge higher for the broader limited-service restaurant industry, which also includes fast casuals.
In true disrupt-and-innovate fashion, Taco Bell rolled out its first mobile ordering and payment app after a social media blackout. The brand’s executives called the release the first innovation in service since the Mexican quick serve adopted the drive thru.
Today, Taco Bell became the first quick serve to launch its mobile ordering and payment app at participating restaurants nationwide for both drive-thru and dining-room orders. The free Taco Bell mobile ordering app for iOS and Android gives consumers complete access to every Taco Bell ingredient to create what they want, when they want it, all in the palm of their hand.
Evolving eating habits and generational dynamics are changing the way we look at snacking. There’s no traditional time when Americans are looking for snacks—say, the middle of the afternoon. It’s the late morning, early evening, and late night, too. It’s as if there are as many dayparts for snacking as there are for full meals, if not more.
In an age when consumers’ choices have never been broader, it’s critical to stand out among the sea of other brands and offerings. That may be one reason why companies from practically every industry are spending hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars to develop and execute marketing campaigns that resonate with their target audience, drive sales, and cement brand loyalty for years to come.
A lot has been said about the dramatic transformation the limited-service restaurant industry has experienced in the last five to 10 years. Observers have noted a range of factors that have shoved along the change, from the pressures to offer healthier food to younger generations’ desire for more creative menu opportunities.