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    The 100 Biggest Stories of 2011

  • The top headlines, trends, and buy-outs in the restaurant industry this year.

    35. Arby’s New Kids’ Meals

    In an exclusive announcement to QSR, Arby’s debuted its new kids’ meal options this fall. The changes included two new kids’ meal entrees and the replacement of fries with apple slices and strawberry yogurt dipping sauce as a side to each kids’ option.

    “The moms told us that they wanted some healthier choices available, and the apples and the yogurt sauce were definitely popular items, so that was a no-brainer to get that in there,” says Hala Moddelmog, president of Arby’s Restaurant Group.

    36. Greg Creighton Moves to President, Smashburger

    Greg Creighton was named the president of “better burger” chain Smashburger, having previously served as COO for the company.

    “Our overall goal is to be the No. 1 brand in better burgers around the globe in the next 10 years, so we are also looking at international opportunities,” Creighton tells QSR. “We have recently announced our expansion into the Middle East with franchise partners.”

    37. World’s Biggest DQ Opens

    Dairy Queen opened the world’s largest DQ Grill & Chill this year in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a two-story restaurant with a seating capacity of 240. It will have a breakfast menu and cakes along with the chain’s signature ice cream and lunch and dinner options. Franchisee Al Safwa Food Group plans to expand to 32 locations in the country by the end of 2015. The chain also has locations in Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar, in addition to 14 other countries.

    38. NRA Pushes for Menu Label Fairness

    The industry’s lobbying organization sent a letter to the commissioner of the FDA calling for fairness and flexibility in applying the new federally mandated menu labeling rule. In addition, the National Restaurant Association encouraged the FDA to push the deadline back an additional six months.

    39. Subway Boosts Bread Nutrients

    On the heels of this year’s sodium reduction, Subway’s commitment to healthy eating continued when it rolled out nutrient-boosted bread. Subway’s sandwiches are now made with bread fortified with calcium and Vitamin D.

    40. Pei Wei Offers Trip of a Lifetime

    Restaurant market research firm Technomic Inc. found more than a dozen quick-serve Facebook contests that offered thousands of dollars in cash or prizes.

    In one of the more unusual contests, Pei Wei Asian Diner invited a fan to travel with chef Eric Justice and other company officials on an 18-day trip to the five Asian countries where Pei Wei draws its influences. The winner experienced the cultures and sampled all types of food while blogging and video recording the experience.

    41. Franchisee Acquisitions

    Several franchise units changed hands during the year, including Arkansas’ K-Mac Holdings Corp., the operator of 167 Taco Bells and a handful of KFCs, which was acquired by Los Angeles–based private equity firm Brentwood Associates.

    Some franchise sales were made under duress. Bankrupt Duke & King auctioned off 74 Burger King units, mostly in the Midwest, for $12 million plus assumption of certain debt, while 25 bankrupt Fatburger restaurants were sold for $7.35 million.

    42. Mark Wahlberg Fights High School Dropout Rate

    The Taco Bell Foundation for Teens and Mark Wahlberg, actor, producer, and former rap star, launched “Graduate to Go Studios” at the Boys & Girls Club of Los Angeles Harbor. Doing its part to keep kids in school, the mentor-based studio program provides a curriculum of video and music production projects, hoping to inspire teens with real-world experiences and show them that if they stay in school, they can indeed graduate and go places.

    43. Shake Shack Grows by 100 Percent

    Danny Meyer’s burger joint Shake Shack grew 100 percent in 2011, with five new openings in the U.S. and two in the Middle East, for a total of 14 restaurants that serve more than 12,000 people per day.

    And the chain’s not stopping with its 2011 growth. There are already three confirmed locations for 2012—in Philadelphia; Grand Central Terminal, New York City; and Coral Gables, Florida.

    Mintel’s Six Hottest Tastes for 2011

    Kathy Hayden, foodservice analyst at Mintel, names the top 2011 flavors and ingredients:

    44. Fancy coffee drinks, featuring layered flavors such as caramel and English toffee crunch.

    45. Skinny drinks are a much more aspirational way of saying “low calorie.” These first showed up in cocktails, then coffee and smoothies.

    46. Carl’s Jr. may have started the Angus trend, but now you can see it anywhere from Arby’s to Quiznos.

    47. Southern culinary traditions like shrimp and grits, po’ boys, barbecue, and pulled meats. Plus, Southern-style chicken sandwiches are everywhere, from Popeyes to Bojangles’ and Chick-fil-A.

    48. Pumpkin is no longer just for fall and appears year-round in ravioli, frozen yogurt, shakes, and desserts. Even Panera Bread has a pumpkin muffin.

    49. Mango isn’t just for summer. It’s also appeared in savory and sweet foods, from McDonald’s smoothies to cocktails, salads, and salsas.