Christine Blank

The Tipping Point

Operators debate whether a gratuity option at the point of sale is right for their brand.
Quick service chains consider adding tipping function to point of sale.
Jersey Mike's new point-of-sale terminal gives franchisees the option of adding a gratuity request to customers' orders.

While tipping has never been a customer expectation in the limited-service restaurant industry, some chains have implemented gratuity options with their new, higher-tech point-of-sale systems, like counter payment terminals or mobile apps. But not every brand is certain whether tipping is appropriate in the category.

A Cut Above

The New Miami Subs Grill to roll out premium brand extensions.

The New Miami Subs Grill has already undergone one major change in its 26-year history, having been rebranded from its former Miami Subs moniker after a new ownership group took over the company in 2007.

Now the chain is rolling out more premium extension brands, Miami Grill and Oh! Miami Grill (OMG), following in the footsteps of other limited-service companies that are updating their concept to appeal to younger consumers.

Sizing Up Google Glass

Operators explore ways to leverage tech giant’s latest innovation.

Fast food operators use Google Glass product to train kitchen employees.
Capriotti's is testing Google Glass as a training tool in the kitchen.

While the majority of the restaurant industry is still trying to figure out how to leverage Google Glass to enhance operations, at least two limited-service operators have successfully used the new technology for training employees.

KFC, part of Yum! Brands, and Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, a 104-unit chain based in Las Vegas, have tested Google Glass for training purposes. While the popular technology was previously only released to 8,000 users that Google selected via Twitter, Google recently offered Glass for sale for one day only.

All Aboard the Fast-Casual Bandwagon

Taco Bell the latest quick serve to add a fast-casual sister brand.

Quick service brands open new upscale concepts to compete with fast casual.
Taco Bell's new U.S. Taco Co. brand mixes a more comfortable store environment with premium menu options to compete for fast-casual customers. Taco Bell

Fast casual has dominated foodservice success stories in recent years, with the category sporting an 11 percent sales hike in 2013, according to Technomic. That success has inspired several traditional quick-service brands to jump on the fast-casual bandwagon with wholly new sister brands, the latest example being Taco Bell with its new U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom brand.

With its edgy “Day of the Dead” theming and upscale fusion menu items, U.S. Taco Co. aims to stand out from both Taco Bell as well as other fast-casual operators.

Chef for Hire

Quick serves enlist culinary consultants to boost menu offerings.

Quick service restaurant brands hire chefs to develop new innovative menus.
Peet's Coffee & Tea enlisted chef Arnold Eric Wong to develop its “Fresh Grab & Go” menu, which includes salads and other healthier items. Peet's Coffee & Tea

In an attempt to elevate their menu offerings, some quick-serve chains are teaming with professional chefs to revamp and upscale their food and beverage products.

Atlanta-based Great Wraps; Greensboro, North Carolina–based Biscuitville; and Emeryville, California–based Peet’s Coffee & Tea are three brands that have recently hired seasoned chefs to spearhead new-menu campaigns.

Quiznos & Sbarro: What Went Wrong?

Experts weigh in on two latest quick serves to file for bankruptcy.

Quiznos and Sbarro both filed for bankruptcy to relieve debt.
Pizza brand Sbarro has seen sales slide in the last decade. Sbarro

Quiznos and Sbarro this month became the latest two quick-service chains to file for bankruptcy, the result, experts say, of not being able to keep up with the growing competition in their respective categories.

Operators: Is Winter Over Yet?

Sales, traffic down in parts of country hardest hit by winter weather.

Quick service brands see slow sales growth from winter snow and ice storms.
Pancheros, which has 65 units and is based in the Midwest, has experienced slower sales growth due to winter storms.

As winter storms continue to wreak havoc in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast U.S., a bleak sales picture among limited-service restaurants is starting to emerge.

Foodservice sales in the regions most affected by snow and ice storms dropped between 7 and 8 percent in January and February, according to foodservice consulting firm Technomic. National foodservice sales declined between 3 and 4 percent overall as a result.

Are Bitcoins Legit?

Some operators accept digital currency, even as it stirs up controversy.

Quick service concepts like Rise in North Carolina are accepting bitcoin money.
Rise, a biscuit and doughnut shop in Durham, North Carolina, started accepting bitcoins last month.

Despite controversies surrounding the virtual currency bitcoin, a growing number of quick-serve restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and bars are allowing their customers to pay for their food and beverages via the digital currency.

Bitcoins are a currency that is transferred directly between buyer and seller typically via digital wallets, eliminating the need for bank transaction fees. The currency’s value is based on an ever-changing algorithm.

Deep Dive

Quick-serve brands capitalize on seafood sales during Lent.

Quick serve Long John Silver's serves lobster bite option as special Lent offer.
Long John Silver's rolled out Norway Lobster Bites in time for the busy Lent season.

Recognizing the potential sales lift that seafood items produce during the Lenten season, many quick-serve chains are once again launching fish-based LTOs in preparation of Lent, which starts March 5. And with more pressure to stand out from an increasingly competitive field, many brands are enhancing their menu and marketing programs to get better exposure for their seafood LTOs.

This year’s more innovative seafood offerings include items like Mojo Fish Tacos from Tropical Smoothie Café and Norway Lobster Bites from Long John Silver’s.

Love is in the Air

Valentine’s Day promotions abound as operators take advantage of splurging consumers.

White Castle Valentine's Day promotion enhances quick service experience.
For 20 years, White Castle has offered a Valentine's Day promotion that turns the stores into white-tablecloth restaurants.

Quick-serve chains across the country are rolling out Valentine’s Day promotions to attract customers for the special day and, in some cases, the entire month of February.

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