Seasonal Food Offerings to Boost Sales

Let the pumpkin-flavored products begin! Beginning this week many chains are rolling out their seasonal pumpkin-flavored treats. McDonald’s will be offering their pumpkin-spiced latte beginning Labor Day, and Starbucks will roll out their PSL the following day. The pumpkin craze has increased over the past few years which has shown an increase in the demand for this seasonal treat. According to Nielsen, In 2013 pumpkin-flavored sales in the U.S increased 14%. This extra demand allowed for an 11% price mark up on pumpkin-flavored products according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Dunkin’ Donuts is also using the seasonal food offering as a strategic way to boost sales by introducing pumpkin coffees, muffins and of course doughnuts. Aside from the 200 million PSL Starbucks sold last year across its 11,700 U.S locations, it is also offering pumpkin scones, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, and pumpkin-flavored instant latte drinks. For this coming season, Dunkin’ is introducing a pumpkin creme brûlée coffee and Baskin-Robbins is rolling out a pumpkin-cheesecake flavored ice cream.

Coffee, doughnut and ice-cream chains are not the only ones to take part in this seasonal craze, packaged-food companies are also taking part. Quaker brand will be offering a pumpkin spiced instant oatmeal for the fall and General Mills Inc (GIS) will also be rolling out seasonal pumpkin-flavored products including Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, Yoplait yogurt and Betty Crocker cookie mix. Even Purina is jumping in on the action! Purina stated last month that they had introduced a salmon, egg and pumpkin blend of dry dog food.

To read more about how seasonal food offerings are key to boosting sales, click here

Burger King Acquiring Canadian Coffee Chain Tim Hortons

Burger King announces on Tuesday that they are acquiring the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons in an $11 billion dollar deal. The aim is to convert Tim Hortons into a major player in the breakfast business in and outside of Canada. The new company will become one of the fastest growing fast food chains globally according to Burger King’s executive chairman, Alex Behring. Tim Horton’s could help Burger King become a part of the coffee and breakfast market within the USA which are currently controlled by Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s. CEO of Tim Horton’s, Marc Caira, has mentioned the chain plans to re-design the stores to include couches and fireplaces as part of the efforts to be more noticeable in the U.S. Both parties will benefit from the deal, as Caira states that Tim Hortons will “win much quicker” within the U.S with Burger King’s help.

The lack of brand recognition will cause a struggle for Tim Horton’s to establish a clientele, especially while Starbucks is expanding its breakfast offerings and TacoBell are launching a national breakfast menu. McDonald’s also has plans to amp up the marketing for their breakfast business. Hopefully the newly partnered companies of Burger King and Tim Hortons will be able to successfully compete. The chains will continue to run independently in the sense that whoppers will not be on Tim Hortons menus, neither will doughnuts be offered at Burger King. CEO of Burger King Daniel Schawrtz states, “There’s no plans to mix the products or do co-branding.”

The new company will have roughly $23 billion in sales and over 18,000 locations after the deal is complete early next year. To read more about the acquisition and implications, click here



Pizza On The Rise In Fast-Casual

According to Telsey Advisory Group, pizza will be the next trend in fast-casual dining. Perhaps the reason this is not yet a craze in fast casual concepts is because the cooking time for pizza is typically longer than say a sandwich or a burrito. A research firm, NDP Group, has showed that new pizza chains are using smaller ovens that can cook pizza in a shorter amount of time. Tom Ryan, founder of Smashburger, also is the founder of a fast-casual pizza chain called Live Basil Pizza. In it’s six restaurants the company uses gas-fired brick ovens that enable the pizzas to be produced at a faster pace. According to Tom Ryan, another reason the chain is successful is because guests are opting for Neapolitan pizzas over deep-dish pizzas which have a longer cooking time.

Warren Solocheck, vice president at NPG states that, “The concept of being able to have a fast casual pizza restaurant has been is now all about who has the capital to expand.” Buffalo Wild Wings has invested $9 million dollars in an L.A-based pizza chain, PizzaRev, and now operates 11 locations throughout California as well as five franchised restaurants in Utah and Minnesota. Chipotle has also invested in Pizzeria Locale which is mostly focused in Denver.

To read more about the rise of pizza in fast casual dining, click here

Healthy Italian Fare at the High Line

Mario Carbone, Jeff Zalaznick and Rich Torrisi known as the ‘Torrisi Team’ are opening a restaurant at the High Line which differs immensely from their Thompson St restaurant Carbone. Carbone serves big portion heavy-duty Italian/American dishes such as veal parmiggiana and pasta alla vodka. The new restaurant at the High Line will be more focused on light and healthy dishes inspired by the cuisine of the Italian coastline. Zalaznick mentions that “there will be a huge emphasis on fish a vegetables..and almost no meat.”

The team did some research on the area where the restaurant will open and came to know that before the expansion, the high line was once the coastline of Manhattan. It was also a farmer’s market at one point some 100 years ago. The idea of opening a steakhouse was an option at one point, however the light, healthy Italian menu concept seemed more appropriate and in keeping with the area’s history. Thomas Waugh will also be serving cocktails inspired by the Italian riviera and serving them in the great setting which has about 100 indoor seats and 50 outdoor.

To read more about the new High Line neighborhood breakfast, lunch and dinner spot by the Torrisi Team, click here


American Chains To Expand In The U.K.

In the U.K. as in America, health and lifestyle restaurant and fast casual concepts are becoming increasingly popular. The demand for innovation is high in both countries as the customer is mainly concerned with convenience, customization and movability. The fast casual segment in the UK had a year-over-year sales growth of 8.3% in 2013, and a five-year sales growth of 12.6% according to Technomic’s Top 100 U.K. Chain Restaurant Report.

Some fast casual concepts in the USA also operate in the U.K. such as Nando’s, the portuguese grilled chicken piri piri concept, and Pret A Manger, the healthy sandwich chain who is also currently the second largest fast casual operator in the U.K. Pret’s customers are very loyal because they appreciate the healthy recipes and preservative-free ingredients that are sourced fresh daily. In 2013, the 270 Pret A Manger stores generated £391 million. Of the Top 100, the fastest growing U.K. fast casual chain is Patisserie Valerie. The patisserie’s units grew by 24% in 2013 and sales increased 25% to £53 million. The concept is a patisserie/café that is known for their handmade celebration cakes, sandwiches, pastries and gelato. The design differs from restaurant to restaurant but the general decor theme is influenced by the 1950’s and some outposts have outdoor seating available.

A few American chains are considering expanding their unit counts in the U.K. such as Shake Shack, Smashburger and Five Guys Burgers and Fries; all budget chains whose main competitor in the U.K. would be Gourmet Burger Kitchen. The concept consists of made-to-order gourmet hamburgers that use only high quality ingredients. Total sales in 2013 for Gourmet Burger Kitchen were at  £46 million. Over the next years Technomic predicts that sales and unit growth for the segment will continue to grow and will perhaps promote an implementation of more global foods and advanced technologies.

To read more about the fast casual segment in the U.K. and America, click here

Chick-fil-A Revamping Coffee Offerings

As Chick-fil-A grows their breakfast business they have decided it was time to upgrade their coffee brew. David Farmer, Vice President of Product Strategy and Development for Chick-fil-A states that the chain’s diners, “might put up with our coffee, but that’s a limiting factor in growing our breakfast business.” Breakfast is currently the fastest growing day part in the QSR food business and having a great cup of coffee is crucial to be considered a top player.

Yesterday Chick-fil-A announced that they would be substituting their current brew for a new specialty-grade coffee from a supplier that shares its revenue with farmers called Thrive. Chick-fil-A will also add a breakfast staple to their menu, iced coffee, which will also draw in afternoon traffic. The chain has also given new instructions to their restaurants to brew smaller pots of coffee so the taste will be fresher. For the past year Chick-fil-A has been developing their coffee program in Philadelphia, Nashville and Phoenix where coffee sales increased by 35 percent; the expectation of this new coffee program in stores is that it will double current coffee sales.

To read more about the new specialty brew coffee items on the Chick-fil-A menu, click here

OpenTable Brings Mobile Payment Services Nationwide

OpenTable, acquired by Priceline for $2.6 billion this past June,  will begin to expand the mobile payment service nationwide in the next coming months. This new feature, which was launched as a trial earlier this year in San Francisco, will allow users to book their reservations and then pay for their meals all through the OpenTable iPhone app. According to the company the app allows the user to connect it with a credit card without having to scan or use bar codes in the process; making it very streamlined and user friendly. Having started to roll out mobile payments in New York (about 45 restaurants to date), OpenTable expects to extend the service to 20 additional cities in the USA.

Eliminating the often annoying process of waiting for the check by paying via mobile app should lead to a faster turnover which in turn will drive revenue. OpenTable will not be charging an extra fee for using mobile payments. An OpenTable spokesperson also commented that the ability to pay with the app will encourage trends in tip and check-size. There are other companies that have also adopted mobile payment services such as PayPal and Cover. Senior Analyst Joran McKee states that, “OpenTable’s prospects look particularly promising, as it has relationships with 31,000 restaurants from its reservation service that it can tap into.”

Some New York restaurants that are adding OpenTable’s mobile payments services are Agave, Café Luxembourg, Il Buco, Le Cirque, Ruby Foos and The Odeon. To read more about OpenTable’s mobile payment services roll out, click here


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