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    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.

    63. Del Taco’s Super Special Show

    A new viral video series from Del Taco, the Super Special Show uses offbeat humor and seemingly random gags to appeal to the young male demographic. The Show is featured on the chain’s Facebook page and is hosted by YouTube.

    Del Taco’s vice president of marketing, John Cappasola, says the series is a way to broaden the chain’s customer base.

    “You have to offer your consumer something that is unique and different and give them a reason to want to be there and spend time with you,” he says. “Ultimately, you’re trying to build that relationship and extend that relationship and give that customer more time with the brand. And, in turn, they obviously give you more time.” —SO

    64. Restaurant Stocks Improve

    Stock prices of quick-service and fast-casual restaurant companies moved upward generally, despite weak same-store sales in the industry.

    Fast-casual shares were led by market favorite Chipotle, which saw its stock jump more than 90 percent in value during the first three quarters of the year. Panera Bread scored a solid 32 percent gain.

    Results were more mixed for traditional quick serves. Stock in Yum! Brands, the parent of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, also chalked up a 32 percent gain during the first nine months, and McDonald’s continued its strong performance with a 23 percent gain. But Wendy’s/Arby’s Group and Sonic saw their stock prices fall.

    “These haven’t been ordinary times for some time, but we are seeing some slight improvement,” says Tom Forte, director and senior research analyst for Telsey Advisory Group, a New York–based independent equity-research firm. “Same-store sales in August rose for the second consecutive month for the first time since 2007. That is giving investors some optimism.” —BW

    65. The Drive-Thru Ban

    Baldwin Park, California, the reputed birth of the drive-thru with In-N-Out Burger’s 1948 opening, placed a nine-month ban on the construction of any new drive-in food outlets. Officials in the Southern California town claimed they wanted to quell traffic problems as well as respond to the nation’s growing obesity epidemic. —DS

    66. NRA & UnitedHealthcare Team Up

    2010 was a big year for the more than half a million restaurant employees in Pennsylvania. In September, the state launched the Restaurant Health Care Alliance, a joint project of the National Restaurant Association and UnitedHealthcare to provide easier access to affordable health care coverage and related products and services. The next move for the alliance? Helping the nearly 13 million restaurant employees across the country gain easier, lower-cost access to health care. —BC

    67. Offense vs. Defense

    As the economy continued to sputter during much of 2010, competition remained fierce.

    Much of the fight focused on the food, as operators tried to drive sales among cost-conscious consumers, both at the value level of the price spectrum and at the upper end, where fast feeders were competing directly with casual restaurant chains.

    “There is offense and there is defense,” Forte says.

    Defense focuses on value menus that maintain quick serves’ base, particularly young males. Offense means introducing new premium items to appeal to consumers who want a higher-quality product, a move that positions restaurants better for an economic recovery.

    This is showing up in the newest incarnation of the Burger Wars. For instance, Burger King launched its Steakhouse XT burger line to challenge McDonald’s Angus burgers and other premium sandwiches, as well as burgers at casual and fast-casual restaurants. —BW

    68. Taco Bell’s Super Delicious Ingredient Force

    The cartoon characters in the chain’s humorous YouTube videos supported its $2 Meal Deal and Fourthmeal offerings.

    The wacky cast was:

    Captain Enchilada Sauce
    Chicken Woman
    Flex Tortilla
    Crunch Boy
    Super Reduced Fat Sour Cream
    Commander Seasoned Beef
    Fantastic Rice
    Steak Maximus
    Dr. Steve Value —SO