Feature Writing

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A Birthday Bash

Quick serves celebrate anniversary milestones with promotions, limited-time offers, and brand revamps..

“From a 95-year-old fast-food founding father to a five-year-old upstart, several quick-serve brands celebrate important anniversaries this year. While some have been modest in their celebrations, others are throwing company-wide bashes and passing on savings to guests through promotional deals. A select few are even taking the special occasion to revamp.
Here are 18 brands celebrating milestones in 2014—and how each has left its mark on the rest of the industry.”

QSR Magazine, September 2014



Sign of the Times

Wendy’s brand revamp serves as an industry case study for how traditional quick serves must embrace change.

“On November 15, 1969, Dave Thomas put 20-plus years of restaurant experience into the opening of his very own fast-food joint, Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. That first restaurant, located in Columbus, Ohio, set a precedent for quick-service burger chains by capitalizing on a promise to consumers that its iconic square patties were fresh, never frozen. Even in those years the buzzword resonated, and so Wendy’s began its journey to becoming one of the nation’s largest hamburger chains.
Fast forward to 2014: While McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King continue to be the segment’s top players, competition is fiercer than ever. Within the scope of limited service, fast casual is the only category seeing overall growth, according to numerous industry analysts. And though that certainly doesn’t signal any permanent decline or end for fast food, it may require traditional quick serves to adapt at a quicker pace than before.
Coming in at No. 4 on our QSR 50 list, Wendy’s provides a case study for just how a brand with deep roots can attempt to change with the times. When CEO Emil Brolick came aboard in 2011, he declared that the company would make moves to be a viable competitor to fast casuals like Five Guys Burgers & Fries. That goal culminated in a brand refresh that’s touched everything from the menu and marketing to store design and employee uniforms. The LTO pipeline at Wendy’s continues to churn out crowd pleasers like the game-changing Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, and is complemented by TV advertising aimed at the industry’s must-have demographic: Millennials.”

QSR Magazine, August 2014


The Mighty Indies

Single-unit concepts prove why you don’t need quantity to create quality.

“For every limited-service chain pushing for growth and expansion across the U.S., there’s a crop of independent single-unit brands forgoing the traditional growth strategy to focus on excellence at the community level. Operators at these restaurants wear many hats, often performing the tasks of an entire C-suite on their own. But while the job is a challenging one, it’s also a rewarding one, allowing these indies to be a driving force in their respective communities.
QSR goes behind the scenes of some of the nation’s standout single-unit concepts to find out why in restaurant development, quantity is not always quality.”

QSR Magazine, July 2014



Let’s Go to the Movies

With box-office sales struggling, movie theaters find a way to keep business fresh: foodservice.

“The movie theater’s lights dim. A man and woman sit cradled in a leather love seat–style recliner as the previews begin. A handful of black-clad waiters and waitresses scatter from the aisles, quietly, unobtrusively making their way out as the film rolls. The man and woman settle further into their seats and unfold napkins onto their laps. Before them is a sturdy foldout tray holding dinner and drinks: two gourmet cheeseburgers with sweet potato fries and a pair of ice-cold beers. Behind them sits a family of four, and while the kids munch on buttery popcorn and chocolate candy, mom and dad enjoy a fruit and cheese platter with a glass of crisp white wine.
Meanwhile, in the lobby, moviegoers stand in line at a grand concession stand, ordering slices of pizza and packaged salads to go with soft drinks. Past the line, there is a bar area where couples sit at high-top tables with mixed drinks in hand. The red tile wall of the bar offers a window into a kitchen where line cooks prepare hot entrée dishes for the next round of movie patrons, working quickly to ensure everyone gets served before the feature presentation.
Unseen to the moviegoers is the robust behind-the-scenes operation necessary for the seamless melding of two business concepts—the cinema and the restaurant—that is increasingly popular in modern movie theaters. As box office sales declined in the past decade, both large theater chains and independent cinemas sought out ancillary revenue streams, and the journey has led many to enhance a ubiquitous part of the movie-going experience: foodservice.”

QSR Magazine, June 2014


Siren Song

Experts weigh in on Starbucks’ recent growth and diversification strategy.

“Like the melodic tune of a mythical fish-tailed woman luring in unsuspecting sailors on the open ocean, the siren of Starbucks’ famous logo beckons the masses toward a promise of quality, of familiarity, of a ubiquitous yet iconic American coffee experience. Part muse, part marketing tool, she sings of an experience upon which a quick-serve empire was built and continues to grow. And, as a writer who worked on the brand’s 2011 logo redesign, Steve M., put it in a company blog post, “she’s a promise, too, inviting all of us to find what we’re looking for, even if it’s something we haven’t even imagined yet.”
Recently, the siren’s call has led executives of the 43-year-old coffee chain to a brand-building strategy centered on portfolio diversification featuring juice, tea, baked goods, and more, diversification that no one could have imagined even a decade ago. But CEO Howard Schultz and his team are rising above today’s stagnant industry landscape, bolstered by three key acquisitions, to fuel growth and demand.”

QSR Magazine, May 2014


A Picture of Health

Industry experts, nutritionists, and menu developers share ideas on how the industry can make classic fast-food dishes healthier.

“Fast food gets a bad rap. The industry is actively cutting back on calories, sodium, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredient components that are detrimental to nutrition, but consumers and watchdogs alike are still quick to point fingers when the nation’s health woes come under debate.
Of course, the industry isn’t blameless. Until recently, large portion sizes and indulgent ingredients were the name of the game. And health data over the past four decades show alarming trends: The percentage of overweight adults ages 20–74 rose from 47.4 in 1970 to 68.5 in 2010, while the percentage of obese adults more than doubled from 15.1 percent to 35.3 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) “Health, United States, 2012” report. In addition, heart disease continues to be the No. 1 killer of American men and women, despite significant declines over the years reflected in the CDC report.
Statistics like these have made consumers more conscious of what they eat, especially when they eat out, and restaurants have changed with the times.”

QSR Magazine, April 2014

What Women Want 

Female consumers offer enormous purchasing power, making them a critical piece to the future of quick service.

“Meet Jane. At 38-and-a-half years old, Jane is a married mother of two and the breadwinner in her family. Statistically, she represents the average age and has the average number of children born to an American woman, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. She’s among a growing female population that serves as the primary source of income for households with children under 18—a population that has grown from 11 percent in 1960 to 40 percent today, according to Pew Research’s Breadwinner Moms report based on the most recent census.
Most importantly, Jane is a member of one of the most powerful economic forces in the world. As a woman, she’s part of a demographic that makes up 51 percent of the U.S. population, has $7 trillion in purchasing power, and accounts for 85 percent of consumer spending, according to several economic sources.
She’s just the type of consumer quick-serve and fast-casual establishments need to attract to build long-term consumer loyalty.”

QSR Magazine, March 2014


Lights, Camera, Franchise

Celebrities of all kind have thrown their weight into the quick-serve industry as franchisees, and their brands are getting creative with how they leverage the partnership.

“Outside a new Memphis-area Wingstop, a small crowd of locals gathers for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening. The restaurant looks like most others in the Texas-based brand’s portfolio—a modest sign with a signature dark green sans serif type protrudes from a beige concrete exterior, aviation paraphernalia reminiscent of the ’30s and ’40s brings an air of nostalgia to the interior, and the menu boasts a selection of classic and boneless wings with 11 different sauce options.
But there is something markedly different about this opening, and the crowd is quick to capture it on their smartphones and digital cameras. The subject of their photos is this location’s franchisee, William Leonard Roberts II, better known by his rapper stage name, Rick Ross.”

QSR Magazine, February 2014