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11Having Wendy’s as a sister concept won’t stop Arby’s from pushing its sandwiches as a trade-up from burgers. But the chain’s usual high-end message will be tempered near-term by increased attention to value, including a $1 menu and bundled meals priced to compete with the deals of Subway and Quiznos. Simultaneously, 100 units run by the franchisor will be given an overhaul, the first step in a three-year, $75-million-plus renovation drive.
12Not long ago, Chick-fil-A could be pigeonholed as a sleepy Southeastern chain with little on its menu but fried-chicken sandwiches. Now it’s finding new roosts as far afield as California and Chicago, with products ranging from yogurt parfaits to a proprietary coffee. Sales topped $3 billion last year, putting it in rarified company. The one constant: Every store still shuts on Sunday.
13Jack in the Box is targeting a spectrum of fast food customers, but the crosshairs keep falling on bargain hunters. It’s been adding premium products, including grilled sandwiches touted as a notch above fast food. Yet the focus was on the attractive price. Ditto for oversized burgers, which were offered for $1. Add a value breakfast menu and limited-time deals, and you have a chain looking to boost traffic first, check average second.
14With customers unhappy with the taste of Domino’s pies—some said they tasted like cardboard—the company did the unthinkable: It updated its signature recipe. The bold move paid off, and then some. Q1 same-store sales in 2010 were up a staggering 14.3 percent over 2009.
15A rare change in leadership may lead the news reports on Panera Bread, but subtler shifts will likely affect sales more than the retirement of longtime CEO Ron Shaich. Next on the to-do list of successor Bill Moreton is the roll out of a customer-loyalty program. It follows a redo of an admittedly misconceived catering program and an upgrade in merchandising to push gift items like Panetone and specialty breads during holidays.
16For a brand that once seemed stuck in time, Dairy Queen is acting pretty hip these days. It’s been ahead of the quick-serve pack in embracing the small-plates phenomenon (it now has a half-sized Blizzard), the truck-restaurant boom (it rolled out its BlizzardMobile in April), and the reliance on social media as a marketing tool (with the goal of attracting 2.5 million followers to a Blizzard fan page).
17Ah, to have the coffee concession for Papa John’s marketing department. The squad has been buzzing like a college dorm on the night before finals, brainstorming promotion after promotion. And these weren’t your usual two-fers. A whole ad campaign was built on John Schnatter’s old wheels. But the hoopla didn’t spare the brand from the pizza market’s price slashing. Among its head-turners was an offer of two pies for $17—undercutting Pizza Hut’s $10-a-pie deal.
18After going bun to bun with Subway streetside, Quiznos is challenging its archrival in the booming convenience-store market, where the Brand That Shrank Jared has a considerable lead. Quiznos is betting breakfast will be the bomb. This year it rolled out an a.m. menu into the 175 units that already operated in conjunction with a retailer, and plans to use it as a selling point to double the tally within two years.
19An original breakfast innovator, Hardee’s isn’t passively watching as the a.m. competition rises. Morning additions have been a key way for the chain to tout a bargain (a double-sausage biscuit sandwich), as well as options the horde can’t yet match (blueberry biscuits). The nod to tradition and comfort foods was also evident in a new grilled cheese sandwich line, though Hardee’s supercharged its version with a patty and bacon.
20After working the same sales strategy for more than a year, Popeyes is making some tweaks. “We now know what the vital few initiatives are that drive Popeyes results,” says Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of parent company AFC Enterprises. So what are they? The development of more Louisiana-themed products, improving operations by using surveys to verify that staffers hustle, and stepping up expansion.