Archive for January, 2013

McDonald’s Debuts New Packaging Featuring QR Codes

Monday, January 21st, 2013

McDonald’s Corp. will replace all carryout bags and fountain drink cups with new packaging featuring quick-response, or QR, codes, to convey nutritional information for its food.

The launch began this week at McDonald’s more than 14,000 U.S. restaurants, and will extend to the chain’s international markets throughout 2013, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said. Text of the caloric and nutritional disclosures will be

“Our new packaging is designed to engage with customers in relevant ways and celebrate our brand,” said Kevin Newell, McDonald’s chief brand officer. “Customers tell us they want to know more about the food they are eating and we want to make that as easy as possible by putting this information right at their fingertips.”

QR codes broaden access to McDonald’s nutritional information by pulling up specific online content on a smartphone Web browser once the user snaps a photo of the code with the phone’s camera. Illustrations and other text will also adorn the to-go packaging, McDonald’s said.

The brand already has rolled out new menu boards to all domestic restaurants to display caloric information for its menu items. The systemwide launch of calorie counts occurred on Sept. 17, 2012, and officials at the time said the new menu boards would remain in place permanently, even if a Mitt Romney victory in the presidential election were to put the viability of health care reform, and its nationwide menu-labeling requirement, in doubt.

The chain of more than 34,000 quick-service restaurants worldwide was among the first restaurant brands to introduce nutrition information on packaging, during its sponsorship of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. For several years, even before government-mandated menu labeling, McDonald’s published caloric and nutritional information on brochures, tray liners and on its website.

McDonald’s operates or franchises restaurants in 119 countries.

Red Robin Tests New Premium Burger Line

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is testing a new line of premium burgers, including Kobe beef and possibly bison, that may debut in the second half of the year.

Stephen Carley, chief executive of Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Red Robin International Inc., parent to the casual-dining chain, offered an overview of changes underway at the annual ICR XChange investor conference in Miami this week.

Carley said the chain is still studying what consumers want in a premium burger, as well as, “what guests are prepared to pay a premium for.”

The premium burger line follows the successful launch in 2012 of the value-positioned Tavern Double Burger for $6.99, which included the chain’s signature “bottomless” steak fries. The burger has add-on topping options for $1, and is designed to compete directly with fast-casual better burger chains that Carley said have “reset the bar” in the industry.

In a report Friday, Wall Street analyst Christopher O’Cull of KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. said he expects Red Robin’s new premium burgers to be priced around $13.99 or $14.99, which would “complete the barbell pricing strategy.”

The exploration of premium burgers is part of several menu launches planned over the next two years. Carley compared the lineup to “being at O’Hare airport at 5 p.m. on a Friday. Our jets are lined up. We just have to pace and sequence them.”

The chain is also exploring new appetizers and desserts, and is continuing to work on building its bar program.

In addition, Red Robin is testing various remodel packages in 21 restaurants around Denver, a new spiral-spine menu, and plating burgers on red plates rather than in baskets to enhance the perception of value, Carley said. With the tests of the new design, Carley said the chain is going for a cleaner look that is “simplified, clarified and amplified.”

Seating presents a challenge for Red Robin as it tries to build its bar business while retaining families. Carley said the new design creates places within the restaurant where different age groups and configurations will feel comfortable. “So a group of guys won’t find themselves seated next to a family with small children,” he said.

Red Robin also plans to continue to grow its fast-casual Burger Works concept. The company has opened five locations of the roughly 2,200-square-foot concept and another five are planned for 2013.

The company is continuing to evaluate the smaller concept’s viability in different types of real estate, but Carley said it will likely open the brand up to urban and nontraditional settings where the larger, full-service suburban footprint couldn’t go before. “We will go slow until we get it absolutely correct,” he said.

Red Robin also selected Vitro as its national creative agency of record this week, the company said. Vitro has offices in San Diego and New York.

Dunkin’ Donuts Moves into Southern California

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Dunkin’ Donuts made a long-anticipated announcement on Wednesday that it would re-enter the sprawling Southern California marketplace.

While the first wave of regional outlets are not expected to open until 2015, Nigel Travis, chief executive of parent Dunkin’ Brands and president of Dunkin’ Donuts U.S., said the Canton, Mass.-based quick-service chain eventually could have as many as 1,000 locations in Southern California.

In some cases, those Dunkin’ Donuts outlets could be paired with sister brand Baskin-Robbins, he said, which also has a strong presence in the area with about 250 units.

“We’ve followed a disciplined strategy of growth and have said that we would enter Southern California when the timing was right and the infrastructure was in place,” Travis said. “We believe we have reached that point.”

Dunkin’ had debuted a branch on the Southern California U.S. Marine base at Camp Pendleton last May, but at the time company spokeswoman Michelle King characterized it as being “a unique nontraditional location” and noted that the company wasn’t ready to expand beyond that.

The Camp Pendleton opening marked the first Dunkin’ Donuts branch to open in the state since 2002, when it closed its final California location. According to published reports, the chain had more than a dozen outlets in California in the 1990s.

Dunkin’ Donuts also opened a distribution center in Phoenix in the fall, which gives the chain a closer access to the Southern California marketplace, Travis said.

Dunkin’ said it is actively seeking franchisees for Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Ventura and Orange counties. And while it would consider existing Dunkin’ franchisees, Travis said he expected most of the operators to be new to the system, adding that California presents a different environment for restaurant operators.

“We feel it’s important that they understand the local nuances of conducting business there,” he said. The company is targeting experienced operators with “a deep understanding of the real estate markets in the developing territories.”

He said the company was looking for each new franchisee to develop 10 to 15 locations within their territory and have a net worth of at least $5 million. He also said it would consider operators of other smaller brands who might want to reflag their existing units as Dunkin’ Donuts.

Dunkin’ Donuts has been growing rapidly, Travis said. The chain opened 291 net new locations in the United States in 2012 for a net new unit growth rate of 4 percent. The company also plans to open between 330 and 360 net new domestic units in 2013, which would represent a hike of 4.5 percent to 5 percent.

Last year, Dunkin’ Donuts remodeled more than 600 domestic outlets.

Dunkin’ currently has some 7,000 locations across the country, and anticipates that number could eventually climb to 15,000.