New on the Menu: Jack in the Box’s Late-Night Proposition

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“Jack in the Box is expanding its “french fries in a box” concept to two more potato, fat, and dairy concoctions that would make any cardiologist squirm. In the company’s defense, they’re going to try just about anything to keep their franchisees happy right now. Also in Jack’s defense? It doesn’t have the meal in this installment that must worry doctors the most.

Every few weeks Skift Table will wrap up the latest seasonal and new items on chain restaurant menus in the United States. We don’t call out everything (sorry limited-time Pumpkin Spice something), but we will call out items that are notable for what they mean to a chain, the season, or consumer habits.”

See more here.

Fast Food Prices Rise to Better Reflect True Costs

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“Dollar cheeseburgers and discount nuggets are getting Americans in the door at their favorite fast-food joints, but the savings end there.

Even as the recent fast-food discount wars rage on, with Burger King advertising 10 chicken nuggets for $1 and Pizza Hut offering $5 pies, fast-food items that don’t make it onto value menus are actually climbing in price. Median fast-food hamburger prices have jumped 54 percent over the last decade to about $6.95, according to menu researcher Datassential. Chicken sandwiches are up 27 percent. Both surpass overall U.S. price inflation during that same time.”

“McDonald’s Corp., the world’s biggest restaurant chain, recently started touting a $6 meal including a burger, fries, a drink and a pie, but it’s also offering plenty of items at the other end of the price scale. Its honey-barbecue glazed chicken tenders are more than $6 without any drinks or sides, and the new Bacon Smokehouse Quarter Pounder meal runs nearly $9 in Chicago.”

Read more here.

Oxalis Is a Neo-Bistro With Fine Dining Credentials

“(…) Over the course of a couple years, Oxalis popped up over 30 times around New York. Dinners sold out, and Russell’s precise, ambitious cooking clearly hit the right note with dishes like sasso chicken with rainbow chard and a caramelized mousse whey. To see another middle-tier but ambitious restaurant open is an exciting thing, too, when it can feel like almost everything opening these days is either a hyperexpensive, high-end tasting-menu spot or a fast-casual venture tailored for replication. “New York is a great city for a few different things, there’s a ton of high-end and a ton of low-end. It’s hard because what defines the middle?” Russell asks.”

See more here.

Chipotle Is Tired of Being Behind on Digital Strategy

“Chipotle’s new CEO Brain Niccol pulled no punches when he sat down for his first earnings call in April and candidly described Chipotle as an invisible brand. “This brand needs to be leading culture, not reacting to it,” Niccol said at the time.

In day-to-day operations, that’s led to a significant shift in the way that the company thinks about growth. Niccol said that he encourages more of a “test-and-see approach” on new initiatives under his watch, and in practice, the team has been freed up to move much more quickly on making decisions and testing new innovations. Niccol himself practices what he preaches — three months after he officially started as CEO, Niccol announced that Chipotle would be relocating its headquarters from Denver to southern California and closing down the New York City office.”

Read more here.

New Lawsuit Against Chipotle Execs

With sales and stocks still reeling, a small group of Chipotle shareholders have now filed an additional lawsuit against the company’s executives, claiming that they “abused their control of the Company, and dealt themselves excessive compensation worth hundreds of millions of dollars through a corrupt stock incentive plan.”

The suit explicitly names Co-CEOs Steve Ells and Montgomery Moran, and CFO Jack Hartung, among others. It claims that these executives, using insider knowledge about the food safety protocols that would cause Chipotle’s well-reported downfall in 2015, dumped their stocks at an artificially inflated price and raked in millions before the food poisoning scandals began. Supposedly Ells made $78 million by selling 119,057 shares, Moran raked in $107 million, and Hurtung $28 million.

Chipotle has not admitted any wrong doing, and both this suit and one from January are still pending.

To read more, click here.

Free Burritos Can’t Help Chipotle Recover before 2018, But Maybe Burgers Can?

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Chipotle’s next move?

After their colossal – and well publicized – downfall, Chipotle has been doing everything possible to get back in customer’s good graces. That includes giving away about 9 million free burritos earlier this month, according to the chain (that’s $62 million worth, if anyone’s counting). They plan to send another 21 million free food coupons in the mail this month. But analysts from Wedbush Securities point out that, while sales may be returning slowly, the coupon strategy isn’t a sustainable one. Eventually, guests have to forget the reason they stopped coming in the first place.

The investment firm downgraded Chipotle’s shares and cut their target stock price from $450 to $400, saying that “current valuation reflects an overly optimistic outlook regarding Chipotle’s path to recovery.” They do not expect Chipotle to recover the sales lost from the salmonella, norovirus and E. Coli outbreaks until at least 2018.

One curveball to these predictions may be the news that Chipotle has applied for a trademark on the name “Better Burger,” indicating they have plans to recoup the losses in another way. It’s a strange move considering the number of existing burger chains, and there’s no word yet from Chipotle on how they plan to market themselves in this arena.

To read more, click here and here.

The Financial Toll of Chipotle’s Troubles

Now that the saga of Chipotle’s food safety issues, stock market tumbles, and attempts to win back loyalty are finally dying down (or so it seems), it’s reasonable to ask: what exactly was the cost of that widely publicized downfall? When a company sees a 25% drop in shares, and a 14% decrease in sales in one quarter, what does it actually cost the executives behind the brand?

In Chipotle’s case, it meant about a 50% decrease in profits for the two CEOs, Steve Ells and Monty Moran – or 15 million dollars each. While that is a steep hit, it’s worth keeping in mind that the two are among the highest paid executives in America, each reportedly earning more than the heads of McDonalds, Starbucks and Panera combined prior to 2015. So it stands to reason that Ells and Moran will weather the storm – even if the company’s struggles continue.

To read more, click here.