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    Is Value Still the Best Strategy for Quick-Service Brands?

  • Brands once again turn to value menus to attract customers. But is it still the best strategy?

    Taco Bell / Constantine Spyrou
    Taco Bell recently expanded its lineup of Dollar Menu items.

    The value proposition has always been the quick-service industry’s bread and butter, and value menus have been one of the most significant ways in which major quick-service brands have delivered on that proposition.

    Recently, value menus have made a comeback of sorts. This year saw the launch of McDonald’s new $1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu, while Taco Bell expanded its Dollar Menu to 20 items and Wendy’s grew its 4 for $4 menu from four to eight options.

    With this value-menu renaissance, we asked representatives of three chains—two with value menus, one without—to weigh in on what place value has at their brands.

    Frank Vamos / Director of Brand Communications, Wendy’s

    The introduction of 4 for $4 marked a turning point, creating new Wendy’s fans and helping win back value customers. Since its introduction, 4 for $4 has helped build positive customer counts in a highly competitive environment and improved the value perception of the Wendy’s brand.  

    When we first launched 4 for $4, it was a game-changer in the industry that many have tried to replicate. The expanded offering provides a clear, compelling, and consistent experience for Wendy’s guests. In our 2017 market test, customer response was positive, and we saw profitable sales growth.

    Most people have around $5 to spend on lunch, and it’s no surprise that consumers want more for less. Wendy’s guests crave value—and for us, that means more than just an affordable price point, it means offering quality food like fresh, never-frozen beef and premium chicken. Not only does the 4 for $4 expansion offer more bang for your buck, but it also guarantees a full meal that tastes great.

    Taco Bell / Spokesperson

    The primary factor at the root of our continued success is our in novative spirit—whether it’s innovating for value items, across the rest of our menu, or evolving the restaurant experience. We have a strong, loyal fan base, and we are always looking for ways to bring them delicious food at an unbeatable price point.

    When our competitors deserted the value menu, we continued to offer a variety of $1 menu items that … disrupted the value space with offerings that no other [quick serve] could match. We innovate with the $1 price point in mind so that consumers experience a simple, transparent menu of $1 items and $5 boxes—no confusion. 

    As we take on 2018, we’re continuing to invest in our consumers with our abundant value offerings, with 20 new national and test menu items over the course of the year. This included the national launch of our highly anticipated $1 Nacho Fries on January 25. Our $1 Menu and $5 Boxes were major sales drivers for Taco Bell in 2017. We had 500 million value-menu transactions, and our $5 boxes generated $1 billion in sales while delivering improved customer experiences.

    Hoyt Jones / President, Jersey Mike’s

    We still believe that in the consumer’s eyes, quality and quantity and atmosphere and interaction in the stores is what the consumer perceives as value. Price isn’t really top of that list.

    Different companies have different philosophies. Value menus, for many brands, are here to stay. Once you start, it’s very hard to get out of it. For us, we do periodic specials—not very frequently.

    The focus of our marketing, whether it’s TV, radio, or billboards, is to differentiate ourselves. We traditionally focus on the hand-slicing and hand-making of each cold sub to order, and we frequently will put on TV somebody making a cheesesteak on the flattop grill, which differentiates us from other places selling sandwiches or subs. So we try to pick the things that we do differently [to communicate value].

    We have a fairly robust number of people who are in loyalty programs for every store. It’s a pretty significant piece of the business today. We reward customers with a free sub after they’ve purchased 12. It’s a great reward for loyal customers, and we have a lot of them. They really value that. When they get that free sub, it’s a big deal.