Archive for September, 2010

Burger King Enters the Breakfast Fray

September 30, 2010

Well the breakfast craze that we’ve written about seems to still be picking up stream. The latest restaurant to announce a new menu specifically targeted to breakfast eaters is the number 2 burger chain in the country, Burger King.

Calling it the largest menu expansion in the history of the franchise, the company recently announced a number of brand new items that will be featured on their menus in an attempt to draw more diners for breakfast. The new menu will only be available until 10:30AM, unlike some other chains that offer breakfast all day.

What’s on the New Burger King Breakfast Menu

Amongst the new additions to the Burger King menu, one can find the BK Breakfast Ciabatta Club. This is a sandwich with eggs, tomatoes, ham, bacon, American cheese and what is described as a “smoky” tomato sauce. The sandwich is served up on a Ciabatta roll for $2.89.

The burger chain also introduced some new breakfast platters including the “The Ultimate Breakfast Platter.” This meal comes with scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns a biscuit and pancakes and will cost $4.29.

The company also has two cheaper options in the “Pancake and Sausage Platter” which will go for $2.89 and a platter with nothing but pancakes for $2.29.

Breakfast Value Menu & Seattle’s Best

In addition to the new sandwich and new breakfast platters, Burger King is introducing blueberry biscuits which will be served warm and covered in icing for $1. They will also be featuring coffee from the “Seattle’s Best Coffee” brand.

A company spokesman explained that the new push into breakfast menus was part of their strategy to expand into other markets, saying that while the company is known for their “superior burgers” they were hoping to get people in the door for other meals as well.

The announcement is one of several the chain has made in recent days, including an announcement of a plan to sell itself to private equity firm 3G capital for a reported price of $4 billion or $24 per share. This represents a premium of 46 percent over the asking price for the shares.

Red Meat Doesn’t Cause Colorectal Cancer New Study Claims

September 28, 2010

Fans of red meat can now rest a little easier. A new study has recently been completed by Exponent, Inc. Health Services, Inc. The study looked at the possible relationship between heavy consumption of red meat and the outbreak of colorectal cancer.

Red Meat and Cancer–One Claim Proved False

The study compared the results of 35 other studies performed over the past 30 years. They meticulously synthesized the demographic, methodological and analytic data in order to account for variables and they have concluded from this that there is no “positive association” between red meat and colorectal.

Previous studies had implied that there may be a link between heavy red meat consumption and cancer. This lead some Americans to shun the food in favor of lighter options such as chicken or fish. This has been a cause of great concern for some restaurateurs that focus on foods like steaks and hamburgers.

One Caveat of the Study

It should be noted however that the study did restrict itself to the question of a particular form of cancer rather than studying incidence of cancer more broadly. In addition, the American Heart Association still recommends keeping red meat consumption down to a minimum since it can lead to increased incidence of heart attack.

Why This Study is Still Good News for Restaurants that Serve Beef

All that being said however, the new study is good news for restaurateurs running steak houses and burger joints. They can point to this study as proof that at least some of the claims made against meat have been exaggerated. Patrons need not be quite as concerned when they go out for an evening of steak dinners or a good old fashioned hamburger.

The new study will be published in the journal “Obesity Reviews.” This journal is an official publication of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. The study was funded in part by the Beef Checkoff and by the Danish Agricultural and Food Council. The researchers stressed that while their funding may have come in part from these organizations, the companies in no way contributed to the writing or analysis of the report.

What is the Official Los Angeles

September 26, 2010

Newspapers and radio stations in the City of Angels are all aflutter with questions about the vote. People want to know – have you taken the time to cast your vote yet? Every vote counts and is important, we are reminded.

The Los Angeles Hot Dog Vote

No, this isn’t about the upcoming mid-term elections. This vote is for something much more important than some silly congressional seats. It’s all about the official hot dog of the City of Los Angeles.

That’s right, Farmer John, a subsidiary of food giant Hormel has teamed up with a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, Andre Ethier, to push for a campaign to make the bacon wrapped hot dog the official hot dog of Los Angeles.

There’s More to This Than Meets the Eye

While the voting is more a matter of “signing” an online petition at VoteLAHotDog.Org, there is also a bit of real life drama behind the voting. With the Great Recession continuing to grind on and more and more people being forced to turn to food banks in order to make ends meet, Farmer John and Ethier cooked up this campaign in order to give donations to local food banks.

For every vote recorded on the web site, Hormel has agreed to donate one pound of food to local food banks with a maximum total of 25,000 pounds being available for donation.

Farmer John, the Hormel subsidiary sponsoring the event, is based in Southern California. The company has said that they intend this campaign to be as much about selling their products to a hungry public as it is about being a “good neighbor” and “giving back” to the community.

But Will Los Angeles Really Get an “Official” Hot Dog?

It’s also not like the bacon wrapped hot dog is a foreign item for residents of the city. In fact, the treat is considered a specialty and a favorite of Angelinos–this campaign is simply meant to make it “official.”

No word has been heard as of yet from the mayor’s office or from the office of Governor Schwarzenegger as to how “official” the voting will make the status of the beloved food has yet been released.

Voting online began on September 2nd and will continue through November 2nd.

McDonalds in Trouble in France

September 24, 2010

The golden arches have been having some serious problems in the land of Lafayette and Napoleon and that spells trouble for McDonalds Corporation. European sales for the company over-all rose at a much slower rate than expected in August. Much of the blame can be attributed to the weakness of the brand in France, the company’s largest European market.

McDonalds’ French Earnings not Up to Expectations

The company recently announced that their August sales had increased only 2.2 percent in Europe from the sales numbers for the same time last year. Analysts had expected to see much stronger sales figures, offering estimates in the 5 to 6% range.

A McDonalds spokesperson released a statement blaming the French branches of the restaurant, where they said sales were “slightly negative.” The blame for the change was placed on the fact they had offered less promotions in the country than they had last year.

How has McDonalds been Faring in Europe?

The hamburger chain considers Europe to be an extremely important market, given that the company generates a full 40% of their sales on the continent. Burger King does not have any branches in France at all, and Wendy’s has no branches anywhere in Europe.

The recent news from France contrasts sharply with previous months — five out of the eight months of 2010 have experienced serious growth, amounting to some 5 percent growth for same store sales.

How Does McD Explain Their European Performance?

The company said simply that they believed they had learned an important lesson from the experience – that the French, like everyone else, need to consistently encounter branding and value messages in order to entice people to come in for a Happy Meal.

The decline for French branches of the chain was made all the more shocking given that this was the first time since November, 2005 that numbers have showed up thusly.

But the Sky isn’t Falling for McDonalds…

Analysts however have cautioned that it is far too soon to draw conclusions, saying that a one month decline in sales growth does not mean that the company has reached saturation. After all, companies large and small have a bad month on occasion.

Another issue which may have contributed to the sharp sales decline for August was a French decision to significantly lower the VAT (European sales tax) for restaurant meals to 5.5% from the previous 19.6% in July of 2009. Given that the bump in sales (due to the tax cut) in August 2009 was particularly robust, analysts believe that it may be unfair to expect to see growth like that again now that the dust has long since settled from that bonanza.

 

The Colonel Really Did Exist

September 22, 2010

You probably already know there really was a guy named Colonel Sanders (For that matter, there really was a Wendy, though Ronald McDonald never existed, at least not in real life.). The reason I’m telling you something you may already know is that many kids don’t happen to know that there really was a Colonel Sanders.

It seems the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand has become so successful and the cartoon image of Harlan Sanders so well known that people have begun to assume that the “colonel” is about as real Aunt Jemima.

What this Means for KFC‘s Branding

For most companies, this really would be a non issue. After-all, if the marketing works, who cares whether the icon is real of fake? No one cares after all that the Geico Gecko isn’t real; they still love him anyway.

KFC parent company Yum Foods, however, was quite perturbed when a recent survey showed that 52% of young Americans thought the Colonel was fictional. To be fair, the Colonel moniker is a bit misleading–Mr. Sanders was never in the military. “Colonel” was an honorary title bestowed on many southern gentlemen in the late 19th and early 20th century.

What do Investors Think?

The move has confused investors who watch the company given that they have recently given up on the Kentucky Fried Chicken name, preferring to refer to themselves by the famous initials.

The company has also struggled to reposition itself in a world which is increasingly health conscious, trying to at the same time tell customers that their buckets of fried chicken were “finger lickin’ good” while also insisting that they offered healthy eating choices.

Return of the Colonel?

In fact, the controversy over giving up on the Colonel’s original recipe and trying to come up with a healthier fare led to some franchise owners suing the company, claiming that the franchise was destroying the brand name.

Given that sales have been down lately, some have wondered if that could be a fair assessment . Some analysts believe the effort to revive the Colonel’s name is the beginning of a move to return to their roots.

Hiring Illegal Immigrants Could Cost You Big Time

September 20, 2010

The penalty for hiring illegal aliens to work in a restaurant can be quite severe. In one case, profiled recently by the New York Times, the penalties may include up to 30 years in prison and a $4 million dollar fine (not to mention seizure of a restaurant).  However many restaurateurs have been defying the law anyway.

Case Study: San Diego

Michel Malecot, the owner of a small French bistro in San Diego was indicted this past April on charges of having hired 12 illegal immigrants. Why has he become such a cause célèbre?

Unlike many restaurateurs who, however reluctantly let their staff go if they find out that they are working illegally, Mr. Malecot decided to keep his staff on, directly flouting the law. The law that Mr. Malecot is facing off against (and the one forcing him to contemplate 30 years in jail) is one intended to reign in drug dealers and money launderers. While he is not charged with money laundering or drug dealing, that has not stopped federal prosecutors from threatening to throw the book at him.

This can Happen to You!

While the case of Mr. Malecot is of course an extreme one, the reality is that no one in the restaurant industry is really safe employing illegal immigrants anymore. A new policy that the Obama administration recently implemented has called for much tougher penalties for those who hire undocumented workers. The policy also calls for much stricter enforcement of the rules as well.

On the other hand, many restaurateurs have said that they simply cannot live without the undocumented labor. Many Americans, even with the dire job situation today, have refused to take jobs paying minimum wage which involve washing dishes in the back kitchen of a restaurant. The problem has led to the widespread hiring of illegal immigrants along with an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy.

Time to Reconsider Restaurant Hiring Policies?

However, several recent high profile indictments (Mr. Malecot’s case is only one of several working their ways through the courts or which have already resulted in stiff judgments) are beginning to force restaurateurs to reconsider their hiring policies.

When a Maryland restaurateur for example was recently forced to fork over $700,000 worth of assets and was faced with the possibility of 10 years in jail, the case sent shivers through the food service industry, forcing many restaurant and franchise owners to redouble their efforts to root out undocumented workers from their ranks.

Put the Social Back Into Your Use of Social Networks

September 18, 2010

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and to a lesser extent LinkedIn are the new ways that restaurants are getting people to drop by and spend food dollars. Facebook allows restaurants to set up a “fan” page. This means that a customer can sign up and say they love your restaurant. The “mini-blog” site Twitter offers followers for you to send short messages to.

The Problem with Social Networks for Restaurants

However, too many restaurateurs are taking the easy way out – putting up a fan page and then doing one of two things. They either send out spam e-mails to anyone who signs up, telling them to come in for a night out right now, with nothing else to offer. Or, almost as bad, they simply let the fan page sit there, collecting virtual dust.

Twitter accounts are the same way – there is a right way to use them and a wrong way to use them. Even LinkedIn can be important if your restaurant sports a fair share of business meetings. Here’s what you need to know in order to make things happen with these important tools:

Customers Want a Relationship With You

Whether you simply ignore your Facebook fan page or you send out spam messages, you are making the same basic mistake: you are ignoring your customers and/or treating them as if they don’t matter.

Customers who become fans of the restaurant want to know if there is a special event going on. A special event by definition is special – it doesn’t happen every single day.  Daily emails aren’t usually such a great idea. However, when you add new menu items or have live performances, that would be a good time to send out a message.

Coupons

The other use that people find for Facebook and Twitter accounts is offering loyalty coupons. Sending out a 10% off your first entree coupon can go a long way to making people think of your restaurant when they want to have a night out. Just make sure you really do offer some value for customers so that they have a reason to pay attention.

The New Kids’ Menus

September 16, 2010

Kids‘ menus historically have included things like French fries, hamburgers and chicken nuggets – in other words, foods kids love but that aren’t considered the most healthy.  But times are changing.

These days, the focus for children is on preventing the spread of the obesity epidemic that has taken hold in this country. All those fried foods which are high in fat and cholesterol, which we thought were acceptable things for kids to eat are no longer acceptable, even for the kids. Here’s how to keep up with the changing times:

Offer Kid-Friendly Food Prepared in a Healthy Way

The first thing you should do when working on a new kids menu is to remember that kids are still kids–they’re not likely to get excited about eating a nice big green salad. Finger friendly food is still very important for them.  It’s a good idea to include items kids can eat with their bare hands.

However, within that variety, there are plenty of choices. Consider baked foods instead of fried foods, which tend to be much higher in fat and cholesterol. Roasted potato wedges for example can still be finger friendly kids’ foods, as long as they aren’t too hot.

McDonalds has tried out apple dippers as an option for desert and some variation of that may be perfect for kids menus as well.

Offer a Few Choices for Special Needs

If you really want to make your menu kid friendly while at the same time attracting health conscious parents, consider offering alternatives for special needs kids.

Diabetes, peanut allergies and celiac disease are all growing concerns amongst children. Offer these options and you’ll make life easier for (and attract more) parents who constantly have to watch what their children eat.

Eggxactly How to Keep the Eggs Coming and Assure Your Customers Things Are Safe

September 14, 2010

Anyone in the restaurant industry who works with fresh eggs should have been aware of the problems that caused the recent FDA report on the recall of a half a million eggs from two popular farms — Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms.

While the problems were disturbing in and of themselves, the conditions the chickens were kept in could put a serious damper on any egg. In order to help you deal with the fallout from the recent controversy, we’ve prepared a few helpful ideas in case customers show concern:

Remind Them That the Recall Was Limited

The egg recall seemed large to the average consumer, with half a million eggs being pulled from the shelves. But the reality is that this number is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the billions of eggs consumed in this country every single year.

The latest estimate is that of the304 million people in the United States, each one consumes about 250 eggs a year. This adds up to 76 billion eggs consumed each year! Which means that the recall, while large, affected just a tiny fraction of a percent of the total egg market.

Assure Them That Your Eggs Are Safe

For most people a simple assurance that you have made sure to check on your suppliers and that your eggs are considered safe will be more than enough to convince most people. They don’t really feel any need to know about the details, but rather wish to be assured that they are getting something healthy to eat when they dig into their meal.

Follow Government Guidelines on Egg Preparation

Finally, in order to ensure that your restaurant never becomes liable for outbreaks of salmonella, make sure to follow government guidelines regarding egg preparation – this means cooking the eggs thoroughly enough to kill all bacteria and/or using pasteurized egg product.

Anyone in the restaurant industry who works with fresh eggs should have been aware of the problems that caused the recent FDA report on the recall of a half a million eggs from two popular farms — Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms. While the problems were disturbing in and of themselves, the conditions the chickens were kept in could put a serious damper on any egg. In order to help you deal with the fallout from the recent controversy, we’ve prepared a few helpful ideas in case customers show concern: Remind Them That the Recall Was Limited The egg recall seemed large to the average consumer, with half a million eggs being pulled from the shelves. But the reality is that this number is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the billions of eggs consumed in this country every single year. The latest estimate is that of the304 million people in the United States, each one consumes about 250 eggs a year. This adds up to 76 billion eggs consumed each year! Which means that the recall, while large, affected just a tiny fraction of a percent of the total egg market. Assure Them That Your Eggs Are Safe For most people a simple assurance that you have made sure to check on your suppliers and that your eggs are considered safe will be more than enough to convince most people. They don’t really feel any need to know about the details, but rather wish to be assured that they are getting something healthy to eat when they dig into their meal. Follow Government Guidelines on Egg Preparation Finally, in order to ensure that your restaurant never becomes liable for outbreaks of salmonella, make sure to follow government guidelines regarding egg preparation – this means cooking the eggs thoroughly enough to kill all bacteria and/or using pasteurized egg product.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Expands By Creating New Markets

September 12, 2010

With the ever present need to find new ways of expanding, one restaurant chain has decided to take things to a whole new level and expand their restaurants into non traditional locations such as college campuses, airports and even roadside stops.

A New Direction for Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s 238 restaurants, which focus on offering a family sports bar style dining experience, will soon be coming to an airport terminal and roadside plaza near you. The plan has been in the works ever since the company was acquired by Levin Leichtman Capital Partners at the beginning of the year. The new owners have also brought in new management in the form of former Cinnabon, Inc. executive Christoper Elliot.

Elliot in turn decided to recruit one of his former colleagues, Joe Uhl, a former owner of Cinnabon franchise owner. He also brought James Walker on board.  Walker joined the company after a stint at Baja Fresh, where he was the chief development officer.

What They’re Doing WithThe Brand

The new management is making a concerted effort to grow the brand.  A large part of their plans involves moving beyond the traditional comfort zone that Beef ‘O’ Brady’s had occupied until now.

The move is not entirely new to the company, as they had already established a branch at the University of Southern Florida.  However the move into airports and roadside plazas is a first for the company.

Traditional Restaurants Will Not be Left Behind!

Even though Walker is committed to the new strategy he has implemented for the firm, he has also indicated that the company will still support its traditional restaurants, and expand them as needed. He added that he does see plenty of room for growth in the traditional format as well.

Walker told reporters that he was determined to make sure that no one type of restaurant would be used to define the brand name.  The company is commetted committing to expanding into smaller venues while still keeping the larger, traditional family restaurants working at full speed.

One of the areas specifically that Beef ‘O’ Brady’s hopes to expand to with the new restaurants is the world of breakfast meals, something that traditionally was not served at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s.