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The quick-service restaurant industry is always changing, and for 17 years and 200 issues, QSR has been there to write it into the history books.
As the leading source of news and information for the industry, we’ve watched trends come and go, brands rise to prominence while others fade away, and technology and tools evolve by leaps and bounds to help restaurants better serve their customers. Through it all, we focused our copy on the news and ideas that we thought would make the biggest impact on your brand.
We weren’t always right (YouTube is best avoided? Eastern Europe the hot new international market?), but, thankfully, most of the time we were. We were there when fast casuals exploded onto the scene. We called Panera Bread “One to Watch.” We predicted mobile ordering, the local-ingredient push, and the craze over quinoa and cupcakes. And we followed along as the healthy-eating spotlight bounced from carbohydrates to trans fats to sodium to gluten.
To celebrate our 200th issue, our editorial staff dug through the entire QSR archives to pull out 200 ideas and moments from the last 200 issues that best illustrate how far the industry has come. Looking back over the last 200 issues of QSR is, first off, a nostalgic uppercut. But it’s also an educational experience; you realize how cyclical this industry is (McDonald’s is struggling! Minimum wage increases threaten the entire industry!) and you figure out that most new trends aren’t all that new at all (you guys, we’ve been talking about Millennials for almost nine years).
Here, we present our 200 favorite ideas from the QSR archives. Some were way off. Some we nailed. But all are significant in their own special way.
• “Profit is not a dirty word.” —Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas
• NRA: Don’t increase minimum wage.
• “Home-meal replacement” a buzzword and threat to quick serves.
• Full-serve brands delve into quick service.
• Try to sell pizza online.
• Study drive-thru performance and report on the results, affect change in the industry.
• Quick serves define their strategies for the growing mall food-court scene.
• Use (print) newsletters as a way to connect with customers.
• The industry struggles to staff restaurants because unemployment is so low.
• Accept credit cards.
• Offer free Internet access to guests.
• On C-stores and foodservice: “Are quick-service chains educating their own worst enemies?”
• Chick-fil-A a hot regional player in America’s Hottest Chains report.
• On a tight labor market: “How the desperation for labor is keeping drug testing out of quick-service labor management.”
• Beware Internet critics.
• Improve the quality of menu items.
• Get into people’s homes with a website.
• A weeklong strike at a McDonald’s in Ohio has the industry fighting unionization.
• Burger King changes its fries.
• Hot item showing up on menus? Wraps.
• A good idea, 10 years on: QSR looks back at the first decade of the Women’s Foodservice Forum.
• Offer deals via the Internet.
• Get the Beach Boys to write and record your jingle, with your CEO and COO singing backup—
as Sonic did.
• Wraps are the quiche of the ’90s.
• Cobrand competing foodservice concepts.
• Offer online ordering.
• “Welfare to work” programs sweep industry.
• Starbucks makes a move on foodservice.
• One to Watch: Panera Bread with 143 restaurants.
• One to Watch: Firehouse Subs with 29 locations.
• Try in-car transponders for cashless payments at the drive thru.
• The FDA approves new rules to allow for meat irradiation. The question is, would customers eat it? The answer turned out to be no.
• Use a sampling truck to appeal to customers and potential franchisees in new markets.
• Pay entire health-care premium for employees in times of low unemployment.
• Make late night a new daypart.
• Recruit new employees via the Internet.
• “Voice-recognition software enters the quick-service market.” Then leaves.