Finally some positive news: NPD Group sees improvement for the restaurant marketplace in 2014. It expects growth in real disposable income, moderate inflation and slowly receding unemployment in the year ahead. That’s not enough for a huge rebound, but the 3% increase in restaurant spending tops 2013’s 2%.
That growth may be tougher for burger restaurants to achieve, however, since NPD forecasts continued expansion of non-beef items due to expected higher beef costs in 2014
Source: NPD Group/CREST; 2013 and 2014 are forecasts.
Behind that projected increase is NPD’s forecast that customer traffic will show a 1% gain, an improvement over 2013’s flat traffic. Check average will increase by 2% in 2014, the third consecutive year to see that gain.
What will be the upcoming year’s winners? NPD forecasts a growth in customers for fast-casual concepts, sub shops and upscale coffee/doughnut outlets. Convenience stores also will gain, benefiting from “consumers current tendency to ‘trade down’ from more expensive options.”
NPD reported earlier this year that retailers are stealing customer traffic—especially at lunch—from restaurants. Food retailers offering “convenient meal solutions” will continue to grow in 2014 and continue to cannibalize restaurants, NPD says.
Higher beef prices will mean more chicken and non-beef menu items.
Cultural demographic shifts will continue to have an impact on what’s menued. A rising Hispanic population could mean more fruits, juice drinks and flavorful spices, NPD forecasts, while a growing Asian population may bring more noodle and rice dishes, specialty sauces and new flavors.
Baby boomers who feel slighted by all the talk about Millennials rejoice. NPD says boomers are less affected by the recession than younger consumers and so have maintained high dining rates. “Their importance to the foodservice industry will continue to grow,” NPD says. “The group is too large and important to be overlooked.”
Boomers’ interest in healthier eating also will have an impact on menus, NPD says. In particular, availability of gluten-free foods will grow because even diners without gluten sensitivity want them.
NPD also sees restaurants finding new ways to offer enhanced value and to continue exploration of mobile technologies for ordering and paying.
McDonald’s has extended to Maine, New Hampshire and Albany, N.Y., its McD App for Apple and Android smartphones through which customers can receive special deals. It does not permit mobile ordering and payment, however. The smartphone deals also are available now in San Francisco and St. Louis.
Customers who download the McD App (a name for which McDonald’s filed a trademark application on Nov. 25, 2013) receive free items including a large sandwich; a free Egg McMuffin or Egg White Delight with purchase of a hash brown and coffee; a buy-one-get-one deal on Egg Muffins and more.
Special discounts include $1 off Sausage Egg & Cheese McGriddles; $1 off any McWrap; $1 off any McFlurry, and more.
“The launch of our new McD App allows us another great way to communicate deals to our local customers,” Nicole DiNoia, McDonald’s Boston Region spokesperson said in a release announcing the program. “We’re excited to continue to meet our customers’ desire for quality food and beverages at a great value with the McD App.
McDonald’s reportedly has been testing a mobile payment application in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas. That technology allows consumers to order via their smartphone and pick up their food in stores, curbside or at the drive-thru.
Did McDonald’s Dollar Menu & More work too well or not much at all? The company reported a 0.8% decline in U.S. same-store sales for November, which could be the result of consumers trading down from full-price menu items to the five burgers—each priced between $1 and $2—and other budget items on the new Dollar Menu & More.
Bacon burgers boosted sales in Russia.
But McDonald’s instead chose to focus blame for the downturn on “ongoing competitive activity and relatively flat industry traffic trends” in its news release. If McDonald’s customer counts were flat, then the Dollar Menu & More didn’t attract additional consumers.
Year to date, McDonald’s U.S. comparable-store sales are up just 0.1%, compared with a 3.6% gain through the first 11 months of 2012. Total U.S. 2013 sales are up 1.1% in constant currency. Systemwide sales are up 2.9% for the year.
Burgers on American-style breads did well in France.
The irony is that McDonald’s sales jumped in European markets where it promoted full-price, American-style burgers. Comp sales in Europe rose a solid 1.9% thanks in part to Russia, where the chain spent November featuring a line of American-style bacon-topped burgers: the American Cheeseburger Fresh, Royal Deluxe with Bacon and Double Royal Cheeseburger. The chain says sales also were strong in the UK, where it brought back the 1955 Burger (a tribute to the year Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald’s). France did well in November, too, touting a Grand Big Mac and a “Breads of America” promotion that included such delights as the Double Cornbread Barbecue burger. None of these was marked down to $1.
APMEA (Asia, Pacific, Middle East, Africa) sales tumbled 2.3% in November and are down 1.9% year to date. McDonald’s says the November dip was “due primarily to negative results in Japan.” Super Mario Happy Meal toys were one of the month’s main promotions there.
McDonald’s President-CEO Don Thompson remains resolute in staying with the company’s plan. “As consumer expectations and the marketplace continue to evolve, we are making investments in our menu, restaurants and service to strengthen our connection with customers and build our business for long-term profitable growth.”
Family-dining chain Bob Evans this week became the latest chain to confront declining guest counts as a result of the continuing midscale-restaurant recession. The chain reported a same store sales decline of 2.9% for the quarter ended Oct. 25, 2013, thanks in part to negative guest counts at lunch and dinner.
But rather than call on burgers as Olive Garden did to combat its traffic deficit this week, Bob Evans is turning back the clock and prices.
Bob Evans says its $9.99 3-Course Meals have been popular, but dinner business was down 4.6%.
Starting today (12/5), the chain is reintroducing the Knife & Fork Sandwich line it first added in 2006. As served then these were grilled Texas toast layered with either slow-roasted pork loin, slow-roasted turkey or meat loaf along with mashed potatoes and gravy. What makes them so appealing now to Bob Evans management is that they are priced at $7.99, a step down from the $9.99 3-Course Meals that are the core of its lunch and dinner menus.
“We are further evolving our restaurant menu to incorporate a tiered pricing structure,” Chairman-CEO Steven A. Davis told analysts during today’s quarterly call. “We are introducing a new $7.99 menu tier that is expected to attract additional guests who are more price-sensitive or simply appreciate the ability to design a meal bundle on their own.”
“Additionally, in line with our new tiered pricing approach that provides offerings that address a range of appetites and budgets, we are introducing a $2 add-on option that turns the Knife & Fork Sandwich into a 3-course meal with the choice of soup or salad and a dessert,” Davis said. “We have great success with the 3-course $9.99 bundle. And so the $7.99 gives us an opportunity to enter with a lower price point, but then we can add-on and then build bundles that way since our guests like to bundle their offerings.” Click here to continue reading Bob Evans Adds a Budget Price Tier
Freed from the tyranny of turkey burgers last month, burger bars have gone wild with alternative proteins for December Burger of the Month specials.
Flip Burger Boutique’s Venison Burger
Atlanta’s Flip Burger Boutique goes way off the beaten track with a tasty Venison Burger this month. Avenue in Florida is doing pork belly; Burger Bar Chicago has a Milanese-style pork burger and Burger Revolution up in Ontario has Longanista pork. Kooper’s Tavern in Baltimore has a wild boar burger and Slater’s 50/50 on the left coast has wild boar meatballs. Jake’s Wayback and The Oinkster are doing brisket burgers. Kerry Simon and Yeah! are spotlighting lamb burgers and Grub Burger Bar is serving a pot roast burger. What’s going on this month?
Great burgers. Just in time for the holidays. Savor and celebrate.
5 Star Burgers, multiple locations, Southwest
In Guac We Rock ($10)
Harris Ranch beef burger topped with smoked provolone cheese, fresh guacamole, roasted red pepper and chipotle mayo on a brioche bun
8 Oz. Burger Bar, Seattle
A 5 spice duck and turkey patty, duck confit, cucumbers, scallions, cilantro, Havarti cheese, hoisin aïoli, sriracha cranberry
8 Oz. Burger’s Peking Duck Burger
A&G Burger Joint, Miami
Angus beef patty topped with candied applewood bacon, sautéed truffle-infused mushroom, blue cheese crumbles, and fried quail egg. Served on a butter toasted brioche bun with kalamata garlic aïoli
The Avenue, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Bourbon-cured pork belly with horseradish, white Cheddar and chipotle-maple aïoli; served with crispy green beans
BGR: The Burger Joint, multiple locations
Buffalo Bacon Bleu
Our Burger with Franks Hot Sauce, bacon, blue cheese dressing and celery Click here to continue reading Burgers of the Month for December 2013
Olive Garden hit the bottom of its Never Ending Pasta Bowl this week, adding a burger and fries to its menu in an effort to boost guest traffic at lunch.
The Italiano Burger is a 6-oz. beef patty topped with Italian prosciutto, fresh mozzarella cheese, arugula, marinated tomatoes and garlic-aïoli. It’s served with Parmesan garlic fries. But it’s not there to be a low-price entry item for lunch: Priced at $9.99, the burger is one of the more expensive lunch items at the chain, owned by Darden Restaurants (parent of Red Lobster, Yard House and several others). Calzones and a pizzaiola are priced at $7.99. Eggplant Parmigiana is $9.49.
The Italiano Burger is on the menu now simply because people like burgers (certainly more than eggplant parmigiana).
Olive Garden’s performance during its last fiscal quarter, ended Aug. 25, 2013, were so poor that President-COO Drew Madsen announced his retirement, effective this month. For the quarter, Olive Garden guest traffic was down 3.8% and same-store sales declined 4%.
The chain responded first by rolling out Taste of Italy small plates, a collection of dishes such as Tuscan White Bean Hummus with toasted ciabatta bread, all priced between $4 and $4.50. Another tactic has been the “Buy One Take One” program that offers one entrée to eat and another bagged to take home for $12.99.
Madsen himself hinted at the possibility of a burger at Olive Garden during the June Q4 earnings call in June. He said that “to regain value leadership in casual dining and broaden appeal at Olive Garden, we plan to add more affordable Italian classics for price-conscious guests, compelling and craveable protein-centric dishes for guests that are willing to pay a little more, new offerings in our popular Lighter Italian Fare platform for health-conscious guests and more daypart-appropriate menu selections and service options at lunch.”
Will consumers really go to Olive Garden for a fast-casual-price burger? A TV commercial from Grey NY insists, “You haven’t had a burger until you’ve had the new Italiano Burger at Olive Garden.” Or will they instead simply go to a fast-casual burger chain such as Smashburger or Elevation or The Counter? It’s worth watching.
PYT’s Egg Florentine Burger for brunch
Philadelphia burger joint PYT has been in the news for over-the-top burger/bun creations like its Deep Fried Twinkie Burger. Its latest—available beginning today (12/3)—is a Pho Burger with a bun made from deep-fried Vietnamese pho soup noodles.
But of more significance is PYT’s move last weekend to join the list of burger bars offering weekend brunch. West Coast burger pioneer Slater’s 50/50 added weekend breakfasts earlier this year and many others, such as Chicago’s Grange Hall, make it part of their concept. A new restaurant built around the idea called B3-Breakfast & Burger Bar opens soon in Lynnwood, Wash.
PYT is now open for brunch from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Not surprisingly, the menu features a collection of wild burgers (all served with a crispy home-fry scramble). The menu:
Salmon & Bagel Burger: Salmon patty with lemon, dill and capers and cream cheese on toasted everything bagel;
Eggs Florentine Burger: Seasoned turkey patty, spinach and egg-white scramble, hollandaise sauce on toasted English muffin;
French Toast Burger: Pork belly patty, applewood-smoked bacon, maple cream cheese on two slices of deep-fried french toast;
Pancake Sliders: Three baby sandwiches of peppered bacon, scrambled eggsand Cheddar stacked between mini maple cinnamon pancakes with maple syrup on the side;
Omelette Burger: Ground beef, tomato, scrambled egg and onion Omelette topped with melted Cheddar on a brioche roll;
Chicken & Waffles: A freshly made waffle and fried chicken sandwich.
Brunch beverages include a Bacon Bloody Mary, house favorite Monkey Julius (fresh orange juice and Golden Monkey beer); Apple Peach Bellini and Mimosa.