Continue to Site

    2010 in Review

  • It’s been a heck of a year, from Burger King’s buyout to BP’s oil spill. We deliver the stories that rocked our industry.

    51. Chipotle’s Big Announcement

    In November, Chipotle made a splash by announcing that in 2011, the company would be expanding—but not just in the traditional sense. On top of new Chipotle stores, the company will also be introducing an Asian concept.

    “In our minds, we are still very early in our growth cycle,” Chipotle founder Steve Ells said in the announcement. “This Asian restaurant is just an opportunity to see how our model works when we use different ingredients and a different style of food.” —SO

    52. Who Needs Royalties?

    Feeling stagnant? Many quick-serve brands have adopted franchisee incentives to spark development. Both Taco John’s and Pizza Inn, for instance, introduced royalty-free franchise programs to promote new restaurants.

    “Our goal is to find qualified new franchisees and help them get off the ground with a little extra breathing room,” Taco John’s vice president of development Brett Miller says of his company’s program, which waives first-year royalties for qualifying new restaurants. —DS

    53. QR Loyalty

    QR Loyalty, a new loyalty program provider, launched a tool for the restaurant industry this year that takes advantage of QR codes (square icons that can be scanned by smartphones) for loyalty purposes. Customers simply scan the QR code printed on their receipt with their smartphone, set up a loyalty account using their name and e-mail address, and then scan the receipt on each future visit. Loyalty rewards are sent as gift cards or vouchers to the customer’s e-mail.

    “The customer walks away with that receipt and they can interact with it whenever they want,” says Nigel Malkin, cofounder of QR Loyalty. “All they have to do is scan their receipt at any time and collect their reward.” —SO

    54. Jamba Juice’s Faux-mercial

    In July, McDonald’s made a splash by announcing the launch of a new line of smoothies. But Jamba Juice made an even bigger splash with its response to McDonald’s entry into the smoothie segment. Released on YouTube, Jamba Juice’s Cheeseburger Chill Smoothie commercial was a fake advertising spot promoting a, um, creative new smoothie flavor.

    “There’s a lot of smoothie talk right now, and we wanted to find a creative way to be a part of the conversation,” Susan Shields, chief marketing officer for Jamba Juice, told QSR in an e-mail after launching the video.

    But the Cheeseburger Chill faux-mercial, which drummed up plenty of online buzz and almost 400,000 YouTube views, wasn’t just a playful jab at McDonald’s. Jamba Juice directed YouTube traffic to a new viral website for the company, where fans could download a $1-off coupon. —SO

    55. Goodbye Finance, Hello Franchise

    Little Caesars’ latest franchise partners arrive from an unlikely world: finance. Before inking Little Caesars deals, one couple worked at a major U.S. bank, one man had 30-plus years in banking, and another owned a finance company. Franchisors could see a continued influx of such white-collar types, many attracted to ROI and growth potential. —DS

    56. New Concept: 1.5.0

    Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    Opened: January

    “We serve local and organic sustainable food all the time,” says RJ LaPorte, marketing manager at Carolina Dining Services, which oversees the brand. “In addition, we used only local or organic sustainable materials during the construction phase.”

    The Twist: Since the concept is located in a dining facility on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the majority of customers are students. “We really just want to educate them as much as possible about local purchases,” LaPorte says. —RVT

    In-N-Out’s Not-So-Secret Menu

    Anyone who’s ordered In-N-Out Burger’s 4X4 with cheese fries is familiar with the off-menu, or “secret menu,” trend that went from underground to mainstream this year.

    No longer reserved for those in the know, secret menu items are officially out of the bag. In fact, this year In-N-Out even posted the “Not-So-Secret Menu” on its website. The concoctions, which In-N-Out Burger says are just great customer service, are a combination of special requests.

    57. Protein Style: A burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun
    58. Flying Dutchman: Two meat patties and two slices of cheese, with nothing else
    59. Animal Style Fries: Cheese, spread, grilled onions, and pickles over fries
    60. Neapolitan Shake: Combination of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla—LZ

    61. Flexible Store Formats Foster Growth

    In August, FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt Café unveiled its first self-serve outlet. With a rotating selection of flavors and toppings and a by-the-ounce price, the Fremont, California, store joins FreshBerry’s full-serve and mall kiosk options as potential formats, offering flexibility that company leaders say will drive FreshBerry’s expansion. —DS

    Chef Alex Becker, Daryl Twerdahl, and Sister Alice Quinn, in front of Cart for a Cause, offer gourmet meals throughout Los Angeles to raise money for charity.

    62. Cart for a Cause

    The food truck craze is now a full-on frenzy, and there seems to be no end to who is along for the ride. Even celebrity chefs have climbed aboard, and not just Tyler Florence and his Food Network hit, The Great Truck Race. Local celebrities and popular Los Angeles chefs donate their time and talent to Cart for a Cause, a gourmet food truck administered by St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. The truck roams L.A. streets every Tuesday serving $10 meals unique to each hosting chef. Chefs include Street’s Susan Feniger, Nobu’s Alex Becker, Animal’s Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, and The Foundry’s Eric Greenspan, to name a few. When top chefs are dishing gourmet eats at a bargain price for a great cause, what’s not to Twitter about? —LZ