Clearly, Del Taco is doing something right.
The restaurant industry is suffering through one its roughest periods in recent memory. In August, TDn2K reported that restaurant same-store sales fell 2 percent and traffic declined 3.9 percent across the industry, and these negative numbers were actually improvements from July. Quick-service restaurants recorded their third consecutive quarter of negative growth is same-store sales.
Del Taco, the second largest Mexican-American quick-serve chain by units in the U.S., bucked all those trends. It reported system-wide sales growth of 7.1 percent in Q2 and company-owned restaurant sales growth of 6.9 percent, marking the 15th and 20th consecutive quarter of gains, respectively. Total revenue grew 8.6 percent to $108.6 million and net income rose to $5.3 million from $4.9 million in Q2 2016. The company raised its estimate for 2017 sales growth and is on track to meet its goal of its stores generating average annual volume of $1.5 million.
Why is Del Taco generating such positive results?
A Menu Strategy with Focused Objectives
One reason, suggests Howland Blackiston, is a well-defined menu strategy whose objectives were to shift more transactions to higher-priced premium menu items, visually elevate a “quick-service plus” brand positioning, improve ease and speed of ordering, increase ticket prices, communicate value, and underscore the brand’s “fresh-made” and healthy positioning. Blackiston is a principal in King-Casey, a well-known restaurant and retail-consulting firm based in Westport, Connecticut, and it was his firm that Del Taco partnered with to achieve the objectives cited above through a menuboard optimization program.
“Del Taco is a brand traditionally known for low-cost items, and they have a clientele that orders from a ‘buck and under’ menu,” says Blackiston. “Therefore, the big business challenge was how to shift more transactions to premium orders without losing the loyalty of traditional customers. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the clarity that Del Taco executives brought to the process,” says Blackiston. “They knew exactly what they wanted to achieve and kept their eye on the ball at all times.”
The Menuboard Optimization Process
King-Casey followed a structured approach to menuboard optimization that included:
The new menuboards that are now proving to be successful embraced these King-Casey recommendations:
Summarizing the successful project, Blackiston says that “the Del Taco team did their homework up front and developed a thoughtful, articulate menu strategy to ensure that new menuboard designs would realize business objectives.” The company’s ongoing financial achievements bear that out.
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