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2012’s Quiet Trend: Multi-Person Meal Deals

Among all the “amaranth is the next quinoa” forecasts for 2012, one important restaurant trend has been neglected. Multi-person meal bundles are going to be a significant menu-marketing tactic for chains this year and beyond.

One indication comes in the coupon booklets Burger King distributed this week. What had been previously tested as BK Family Bundles have been streamlined to simply BK Bundle meals and have expanded to include breakfast. There’s even a new sell line: “Great taste to go around.”

The $9.99 three-person meal incorporates a Whopper, Whopper Jr. and 10 Chicken Tenders (plus three small fries and drinks). A new “Breakfast for Two” bundle has two Croissan’wiches and two small hash browns with two small coffees or fountain drinks for just $5.99.

The bundled/boxed meal isn’t limited to burgers, of course. See Pizza Hut’s current $19.95 Big Dinner Box deal with pizza, wings and bread sticks. Hardee’s has tried two-person boxed meals. Or Taco Bell’s multi-person (let’s hope) Taco 12 Pack.

The U.S. lags the rest of the world in embracing boxed, bundled meals as a marketing tool. McDonald’s pioneered it two years ago in Australia with its four-person Family Dinner Box in Australia. Since then it has added two-person Mates Meal lunches. KFC has countered in Australia with four-person Family Burger Box meals.

Multi-person meals that maximize profitability for operators by including multiple high-margin items such as sides and beverages are going to proliferate here as they have elsewhere.

● New research from The NPD Group continues to show that such marketing tactics are largely ineffective in building customer visits in such a stagnant economy. At the close of 2011′s Q3, foodservice traffic was weak in most countries around the world.

In the U.S., average check rose 1.8% (thanks in part to price increases) to $6.23 while customer traffic declined 0.6%. In Canada, average check rose 0.8%; traffic rose 2.7%. For the UK, check average declined 0.5% and traffic dipped 0.4%. The outlier, of course, was China, where average check rose 0.7% to $2.70 while customer traffic soared by 18.7%.

● And then there’s Quick, the French burger chain. I usually don’t bother with gimmick burgers that glorify gluttony, or are silly or otherwise are outside real restaurateuring. But the Dark Vador burger and its black bun is too unusual to resist.

As initially reported by L’Express, the Quick chain on Jan. 31 will tie-in to the debut of the Star Wars series’ “The Phantom Menace” in 3D (on Feb. 8) with three double-patty themed burger LTOs. In addition to the Dark Vador, the menu includes a Jedi Burger and a regular-bun Dark Burger (tied to character Darth Maul). It just proves that there really is no limit to new ideas in the burger business.

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