Technomic is forecasting a nominal 3 percent growth rate for limited-service restaurants in 2015, so it doesn’t seem as if there will be any big changes in fast food in the coming year. Any positive effect produced by lower gas prices is likely to be canceled out by drought-induced higher food costs. But that doesn’t mean the fast-food industry is going to sit back and do the same old things this year. We’ll be working hard to create exciting experiences and differentiate our brands while fighting new competitors encroaching on our territory. And it won’t just be with new products.
Denise Lee Yohn
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.
Q: Many fast-food restaurants are beefing up their mobile capabilities. What is the best way to tap into this trend?
A: Getting in on the mobile ordering—or mobile payment or mobile marketing—trend shouldn’t be our objective. Instead, we should ask, “How can we use mobile technology to disrupt our industry, make our competitors irrelevant, or change our customers’ lives?” In other words, “How can we become the Uber of fast food?”
Q: Can you give me some pointers on reaching out to the Hispanic market?
A: The Hispanic market deserves our attention. There are more than 50 million Hispanics living in the U.S. and, by 2050, that number is projected to grow to 130 million. Hispanics are our country’s largest ethnic group, accounting for 16 percent of our population; the number is even higher in states like New Mexico (46 percent), Texas (38 percent), and California (38 percent).
Q: Your last column recommended putting a priority on influencers to spark word-of-mouth marketing. Can you explain more about how to use influencers?
Q: Everyone says word-of-mouth marketing is the best form of marketing, but how do you actually create it?
This month I’m answering three questions that were submitted through our online question form. While the questions cover a range of issues in the industry, the common theme is to ensure you’re asking the right question in the first place.
I have recently opened my quick serve, and for the first two weeks, response was very good. Now suddenly my sales have gone down and I don’t know what to do. Please give me some marketing ideas to reach more people.
—Anil Patil, Mr. Hungry
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.
Q: We've recently been presented with some very attractive opportunities that have the potential to really grow our company. How should we evaluate these?
Q: I'm thinking about updating my website soon. Anything I should know for that process?
A: With social media and mobile being so prominent in the marketing landscape these days, many people have stopped tending to their websites. But your website can continue to play a critical role in your company's marketing and communications strategies. The way it plays that role, however, needs to change.