drive-thru? For nearly half of Americans, that's a deal-breaker.
shows that 47% of U.S. consumers would simply avoid going to a store that
doesn't have a drive-thru. And twice as many people prefer using the drive-thru
to going in-store (28% vs. 14%).
a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by One Poll for Dutch Bros,
drive-thrus have become an essential part of daily life for many Americans.
the drive-thru for a variety of reasons, but most commonly to grab coffee (63%)
or fast food (60%) at least three times per week.
And among those
who prefer the drive-thru, one-third of them (32%) say they will "always"
choose that option when it's available.
popular time to hit the drive-thru is mid-morning, sometime between 8 a.m. and
12 p.m. More than a quarter of consumers (27%), however, say coffee drive-thrus
should be open after midnight and into the early hours of the morning. A
similar cohort of night owls (26%) feel the same about fast-food restaurants.
the drive-thru a must for so many Americans?
one thing. Most respondents agree (61%) that the drive-thru tends to be the
fastest option. Of course, it's also nice not getting out of the car. Among
those who prefer the drive-thru, 61% said they appreciate the comfort of
of the car to go into a restaurant adds friction to the ordering process," Bob
Vergidis, chief visionary officer at pointofsale.cloud told The Food
Institute. "It's an added step and can be even more laborious for people with
small children or pets in the car."
And in the
spirit of efficiency, 52% of respondents said the drive-thru is appealing to
avoid long lines. According to Vergidis, how the drive-thru line looks can even
influence where a customer chooses to eat.
create an easy way to see how long the line is and how fast it is moving before
deciding which restaurant to choose," said Vergidis. "They are a visual
indicator of how long it will take for guests to receive orders."
appearances are crucial to attract business, as 68% of Americans admit that
they judge the quality of a store by their drive-thru.
can businesses bolster the drive-thru experience?
technology to make the experience even more seamless is one way for businesses
to capitalize on the convenience that consumers already expect from the
should think in a more integrated way," explained Vergidis. "Drive-thrus are
one part of the ordering process and their value increases when coupled with
order-ahead apps and the ability for restaurants to notify guests when their
order is ready."
Some 46% of
those surveyed said that a unique way to request or receive an order would make
the whole experience more enjoyable.
But if a
business can't make the process more efficient, at least make it pretty. More
than half of U.S. consumers (56%) said they would appreciate colorful artwork
or artistic decorations in the drive-thru lane. Food Institute Focus
While the perception is that the red bucket and reusable cloth process for cleaning and sanitizing surfaces is inexpensive, this common practice can create some food safety risk and challenges as illustrated by these research studies.
In addition, GOJO Industries conducted a series of demonstrations to visualize the limitations of this traditional cleaning method. Check out "The Milkshake Demo".
quick-service restaurants navigate the changing foodservice landscape, average
unit volume (AUV) is a key metric that speaks to a chain's operational
efficiency and overall success.
indicates the average annual sales that a brand earns per restaurant—a
reflection of how consumers feel about the brand itself.
the top five highest-grossing fast-food chains in the U.S. by AUV, according to
Chick-fil-A — $6.7 million
Chick-fil-A's steady but rapid growth is
unrivaled. With only 2,837 stores, the brand generated $18.8 billion in U.S.
systemwide sales in 2022. The year before, that figure was $16.7 billion. In
2020, it was $13.7 billion, and just four years ago in 2019, it was $12.2
To put it
plainly, no restaurant brand in the QSR 50 has come this far, this quickly, and
punches that high above its store count," wrote the authors of the 2023 QSR 50
report. Chick-fil-A trails only McDonald's and Starbucks in systemwide results
despite the fact that McDonald's and Starbucks have 10,607 and 13,036 more U.S.
Chick-fil-A isn't even open on Sundays.
Raising Cane's — $5.4 million
Cane's, known for
its chicken fingers, added a net 246 locations between 2019 and 2022 and saw
total systemwide sales climb from $1.5 billion to $3.1 billion.
The brand is
one to watch, with a current total of 646 U.S. stores and plenty of room to
grow. Co-CEO AJ Kumaran believes Raising Cane's is on track to triple
its current figure in the next seven years. When it happens, Kumaran believes
the brand will generate $8 million per store averages, on par with what
Chick-fil-A presently reports at its drive-thrus.
Shake Shack — $3.8 million
footprint of only 287 U.S. locations, Shake Shack recorded an estimated
$994 million in systemwide sales. The brand's growth strategy involves focusing
on drive-thru and plans to open 10-15 drive-thru restaurants in 2023. The
handful of drive-thrus that Shake Shack already has are performing as well as
or better than company averages, earning more than $4 million with strong
operating profit margins.
Garutti told QSR that the chain is "doing kind of a little bit of
everything so that we can learn what we like best." That means experimenting
with everything from how many drive-thru lanes to build, to how tech will be
utilized, to where windows will go—all in pursuit of optimization.
Whataburger — $3.7 million
Whataburger added 52 new stores last year,
bringing its total units to 925 and generating $3.3 million in systemwide
sales. The regional hamburger chain's sales jumped 24% in 2022 from $2.7
billion in 2021, with AUV increasing 16.5% to $3.7 million.
Whataburger opened its first digital-forward restaurant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama,
open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The location features brand new food
lockers where customers can pick up mobile orders. These temperature-controlled
lockers feature opaque compartment doors "to ensure privacy," touchscreens, and
compartment sensors designed to simplify order loading and accuracy.
McDonald's — $3.6 million
largest burger chain recorded $48.7 billion in systemwide sales last year
across its 13,444 U.S. locations. According to QSR, McDonald's "is
experiencing a renaissance of sorts thanks to its overall transformation plan,
Accelerating the Arches, which calls for modernization, emphasis on core menu
items, and the three Ds—digital, delivery, and drive-thru."
renaissance era is ongoing, as this summer the golden arches got an extra sales
boost from the explosive success of Grimace's Birthday promotion, which quickly
went viral. In Q2, McDonald's same-store sales grew a whopping 11.7%. On a July
earnings call, CEO Chris Kempczinksi put it plainly, "This quarter, if I'm
being honest, the theme was Grimace." Food Institute Focus
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Grimace Effect – How Marketing & Memes Drive Sales
1971, McDonald's debuted Evil Grimace, a purple monster with four arms
that he used to steal shakes, hoarding them underground like Gollum and his
Precious. A year later he debuted again as Grimace, this time with a standard
set of limbs, still purple, less hostile, amiable if a little aloof. In 2010, a
McDonald's spokesperson said he was a sentient taste bud, and a 2014 tweet from
McDonald's described him as the "embodiment of a milkshake or a tastebud"
according to "Grimace lore," from wherever that ancient grimoire of the Arches
resides. And this summer, McDonald's ran a promotion for his (its?) 51st
birthday, which TikTokkers turned into a bizarre, often hilarious, occasionally
horrifying trend of post-Grimace-shake pandemonium, leaving Grimace
well-wishers often smeared in purple neon light and sticky congealing shake
detritus while sprawled under overpasses, floating down streams, or even being
dragged offscreen from the scene of the Grime.
point, the #GrimaceShake and #HBDGrimace were the top trends on Twitter and
TikTok, spurring thousands (tens of thousands?) of shake sales every day.
Zooming out a bit, the McDonald's marketing department created a fairly
milquetoast promotion in the Grimace Birthday Meal, but combined with the wild
alchemy of organic, consumer-generated content, the confetti (and sales
dollars) truly fell; instead of toddlers begging Mom and Dad for a Grimace
meal, the world's most recognizable restaurant found sales spurred by tweens,
teens, influencers, and more who needed the shake to make the video and
participate in one of the more memorable marketing zeitgeists of the mobile, meme-able
promotion worked; in the second quarter, McDonald's same-store sales grew a
whopping 11.7%. On a July earnings call, McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinksi
said, "This quarter, if I'm being honest, the theme was Grimace," and beneath
the aw-shucksian statement to investors, Kempczinski was 100% accurate—the
Grimace Birthday Meal absolutely dominated, deliciously.
why? And what can brands learn from it?
Case of the Grimace Shake
It is often
said that art imitates life, and it should also be said that Grimace was
conjured up by a marketing department as one of many characters to represent
McDonald's and to sell food to children and their families, so though he may
qualify as art, higher existential questions regarding Grimace's Promethean
origins (and his birthday) are best left alone. Five decades later,
nobody—least of all McDonald's—could have predicted the not strictly PG
circumstances poor Grimace was subjected to in June. If 100 marketing
departments came up with 100 ideas, it is not certain they'd have hit upon
something as inane, as harmless, as downright funny, disturbing, as weird and
wondrous and wildly successful as the Grimace Shake horror videos and the sales
boon that followed. For it was not the Grimace Birthday Meal alone that drove
sales and pleased investors; it was the unexpected support via TikTok and
And to make
a Happy Birthday Grimace video, one needed a Grimace Shake.
reflects the current culture, which plays a huge role into how these brands
ultimately decide to make any changes," said David Triana, account
executive at PR firm Delight Labs. "In turn, especially with apps like
TikTok, mascots can cause a brand and/or their message to go viral. As we've
seen with Grimace this summer, a mascot can create a trend and make it spread
food mascots have had identifiable motivations and back stories," said Brian
Brown, president and chief creative officer at Ingredient, to The Food
Institute, liking ambassadors such as Lucky the Leprechaun (Lucky Charms)
and Trix Rabbit (Trix) to Wile E. Coyote, say, and the Road Runner.
mascots are reimagined"—as Grimace was 50 years ago—"in a more irreverent way.
Irreverence and irony are attributes that resonate with millennials and Gen Z
in particular," Brown added.
Grimace's irreverence was reimagined so vividly helped drive the Grimace
Birthday Meal wholly without the addition of any McDonald's-endorsed Grimace
ads that mentioned or even came close to the Grimace horror videos. Here's a
wild fact about that: per new data from MediaRadar, McDonald's overall
U.S. ad spend had fallen 19% year-over-year to $156 million, driven largely by
cuts to TV spend. The virality of the Grimace Shake, however, helped counterbalance
the decrease, ensuring McDonald's stays top-of-mind with its customers.
And when its
customers do the work of the marketing team for them, brands like McDonald's
Just a Shake—An Identity
curious about the Grimace Shake is that the mascot didn't create the trend; it
merely provided the sugary-good, besprinkled medium. And as July belonged to
Barbie, June surely belonged to Grimace. Grimace is an amorphous blob; Barbie
is and has always been whatever a child wants her to be. Both, in other words,
are perfect mediums for summer fun on which the values of the culture can be
imprinted. In Grimace's case—and the case with the #GrimaceShake horror
videos—those values were harmless, delicious fun. That consumers associated
those with Grimace, of all characters—and with McDonald's as a whole—speaks
purple-tinted volumes about its place in our culture and the outsize influence
McDonald's wields in the food/bev space.
is creating a connection with the audience and, if it's a long-established
brand, not shying away from nostalgia," Triana continued. "What doesn't work,
especially in the case of a mascot, is creating something that is offensive or
insensitive, and doesn't accurately represent the brand's message or values."
One of the
most fascinating aspects about the Grimace Shake and the nostalgia-fueled
millions McDonald's raked in is that the movement was fueled by a nostalgia for
a character many of the creators didn't grow up with, at least not in the sense
that children of the 70s, 80s, and 90s did. And McDonald's, to its credit,
simply let the sprinkles fall where they may—if that meant all over the
sidewalk in the dark next to another spilled shake, well, consumers always knew
where to get another one. And to Triana's point, most of the videos were
explicitly not offensive or insensitive; bizarre, yes, beguiling, surely, but
often with the same sensibility—this is fun. We're having fun. A trip to
McDonald's to get a Grimace Shake is fun, and no marketing department could
have pushed that kind of content in the organic, radical, wildfire way that it
spread from the consumers themselves. Like the setup to a knock-knock joke, we
all knew the direction the videos were headed. That the punchlines were as
creative as they were lent further power to the punch; always a shake, spilled;
always a laugh, had.
marketers in the F&B space, humor must be taken in stride and brands have
to be ready to respond quickly to potential spikes in trends (even if they are
not what you expected)," said Bianca Hanson, marketing director at Uncorked
Creative, to The Food Institute.
retired their M&M ‘spokescandies' only to quickly bring them back.
Why? Their recognizable, friendly nature was too important to bury," she added.
"Planters retired Mr. Peanut only to replace him with another peanut because
who is Planters without their nutty mascot? Having a mascot that makes
consumers laugh and hit ‘share' can be a saving grace in the oversaturated
back, the Grimace Shake really had it all, and did it all, for McDonald's. It
lent credence to some of the brand's oldest ambassadors and to the values they
represent; it captured the imaginations of consumers young and old, new and
experienced; it went viral in the way few corporate products do; most
importantly, the Grimace Shake crusade was led by consumers in the name of
farce and not by marketers in the name of consumerism. Since there's no
accounting for taste, the Grimace Shake achieved, in many ways, Susan Sontag's
description of camp, as the masses "[turned their backs] on the good-bad axis
of ordinary aesthetic judgment;" consumers simply associated the frissons of
hilarity with a berry-flavored shake that proffered outsize value to those who
bought it and hit record, churning the engines of American commerce at the end
of what is hopefully a season of inflation, frustration, and for many consumers
and businesses alike, economic strife.
connoisseur of Camp [finds pleasure] in the coarsest, commonest pleasures, in
the arts of the masses," Sontag wrote. Is there a better description for
contemporary social media—and the Grimace videos that live in perpetuity—than
that? In this case, McDonald's was the beneficiary from the viral arts of the
masses and Grimace the purple, profitable portrait from and on behalf of
McDonald's. And like controversial art and wildfire food trends, nobody saw it
And it might
not even be over. To capture the future, McDonald's is once again looking to
the past. Fresh off Grimace's birthday and its Q2 earnings report, McDonald's
announced it will test a spinoff restaurant, CosMc's, in a handful of sites in
early 2024. More plans will be revealed at its investor day in December. CosMc
was a McDonaldland mascot who appeared in the 80s and 90s, an alien who craves
sublime, organic—these are the hallmarks of profit for brands wise enough to be
confident in their values and lucky enough to thread the needle between
quality-controlled seriousness and edge-of-the-internet frivolity. One only
wonders what will happen as Halloween (and the beginning of Q4) approaches and
what next summer's earnings report will hold for the golden arches. Food Institute Focus
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partnered with Avocados from Peru to offer free guacamole on National
Avocado Day, which occurred July 31. Chipotle Rewards members could get free
guac on the side or atop an entrée when they used a digital-only code at checkout
on the app or website, reported The Packer (July 26). Full Story
launched a Grilled
Cheese Dipping Taco August 3. The menu item plays off the birria taco trend and
features slow-braised shredded beef, creamy jalapeno sauce, and cheddar,
mozzarella, and pepper jack cheeses. Full Story
YouTube star known as MrBeast, has sued his food delivery business
partner, saying the company sacrificed quality in its bid for rapid expansion.Donaldson's Beast Investments LLC sued for breach of contract,
asking a federal judge to terminate his business relationship with Virtual
Dining Concepts, reported Bloomberg (July 31). Full Story
Inc. reported a
record number of delivery orders in the second quarter, showing consumers'
commitment to takeout despite rising prices. Customers placed 532 million
orders in the quarter and the gross value of those orders rose 26% to $16.5
billion, reported Bloomberg (Aug. 2). Full Story
Starbucks is targeting a new growth
opportunity: small towns. Executives told investors that there's "real
headroom" and opportunity in rural America as the chain is poised to overtake Subway's
20,000 domestic units to become the most prolific restaurant chain in the U.S.,
reported Restaurant Business (Aug. 2). Full Story
fast-casual Back Yard Burgers chain has declared bankruptcy. The chain
once had nearly 200 restaurants, but it recently closed several locations and
filed for Chapter 11, reported Restaurant Business (July 28). Full Story
Pizza chain Sbarro
is growing nearly a decade after filing for bankruptcy. The chain embraced what
it is: a pizza-by-the-slice brand that does best in high-traffic areas,
reported Eat This, Not That! (Aug. 2). Full Story
Tropical parent company Fiesta Restaurant Group was acquired by Authentic
Restaurant Brands. The all-cash transaction valued the company at $225 million,
reported MarketWatch (Aug. 7). Full Story
Hortons, known for
its coffee and breakfast foods, is increasingly targeting the lunch crowd as
remote work puts a dent in breakfast demand. The Canadian chain's traffic in
its home market is still lagging behind 2019 trends in part because of fewer
visits in the morning as people go to offices less than before the pandemic,
reported Bloomberg (Aug. 8). Full Story
King added Royal
Chicken Wraps to its menu beginning August 14, available in three flavors:
classic, spicy, and honey mustard, reported GMA (Aug. 9). Full Story
Quiznos has launched the Big Fat Greek Sub,
a gyro-style item. The sandwich features certified halal, tzatziki sauce,
marinated tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and banana peppers. Full Story
Wow Bao has announced a partnership with Walmart,
the world's largest retailer, to expand its business exponentially. The steamed
bun company will move from 1,000 stores to over 4,000 in the U.S. market. Wow
Bao is about to celebrate its 20th year in business, reported Supermarket
News (Aug. 14). Full Story
Chão was acquired by
Bain Capital in a $1.1 billion deal, including debt. Prior owner Rhone
Capital took the chain private for $560 million in 2018 and previously
explored an IPO for the brand, reported Reuters (Aug. 15). Full Story
Chick-fil-A will add a Honey Pepper Pimento
Chicken Sandwich to its menu, the first-ever update to the original sandwich in
the brand's history, in addition to a new Caramel Crumble Milkshake for fall,
reported GMA (Aug. 16). Full Story
on the Move:
Bundt Cakes has
named Dolf Berle as its CEO. Berle is a former Topgolf and Dave
& Buster's executive. Full Story
Chang's announced Damola
Adamolekun stepped down as CEO and the restaurant chain has appointed
Rohit Manocha as interim CEO. P.F. Chang's said it's working with an
independent recruitment firm to conduct a search for a successor.Full Story
Bros has named
Christine Barone CEO, following the announcement that Joth Ricci will
step down at the end of the year following a transition period, reported Biz
Women (Aug. 9). Full Story
SUPPLY CHAIN NEWS
Future of Liquid Packaging: Harnessing Automation in the Manufacturing Sector
fast-paced evolution of technology has continuously redefined multiple sectors
and the food manufacturing industry is no exception. One of the areas of
innovation is in the liquid packaging processes. Liquid food products, whether
sauces, beverages, or dairy items, require specific packaging techniques to
ensure safety, longevity, and aesthetic appeal. This article delves into the
future of liquid packaging, specifically focusing on the rising influence of
Automation in Liquid Packaging
in liquid packaging represents a transformative shift in the food manufacturing
industry. By utilizing cutting-edge technology, these automated systems
significantly increase production rates, ensure consistent packaging quality,
and reduce the risk of workplace accidents. This paves the way for higher
output, increased profitability, better product quality, and a safer working
environment, positioning it as a vital component of the industry's future. Here
are the benefits of automation:
Automated packaging machinery is designed to perform tasks at high speeds with
minimal human intervention. This translates to increased production rates and
efficient utilization of resources.
significantly reduces the likelihood of human errors, ensuring consistency in
the volume of liquid-filled, seal quality, and packaging weight.
automation handling high-risk tasks, workers are less exposed to dangerous
conditions, reducing the potential for workplace accidents.
Trends in Automated Liquid Packaging
trends like the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine
Learning (ML), increased use of robotics, and a greater emphasis on
sustainability are set to redefine the landscape of liquid packaging in the
food manufacturing industry. Here's how these technologies will impact the
future of liquid packaging:
of AI and Machine Learning: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) can optimize
various aspects of liquid packaging, such as predictive maintenance, quality
control, and process optimization. These technologies can enable predictive
algorithms that foresee equipment failure, saving downtime and maintenance
adoption of robotic arms in packaging lines will increase. Capable of
performing complex tasks with precision and speed, robotics will handle
everything from capping bottles to arranging packaged products on pallets.
Sustainability: Automation will enable the efficient
use of resources, reducing waste and environmental impact. It will also allow
the implementation of innovative, sustainable packaging materials that would be
challenging to handle manually.
for the Food Manufacturing Industry
The rise of
automation in liquid packaging is expected to trigger significant changes in
the food manufacturing industry. This shift will influence diverse aspects from
quality assurance and cost management to production volume. By transforming
traditional practices, automation holds the potential to redefine industry
standards and usher in a new era of efficiency and innovation.
reducing human error and offering precise control over packaging processes,
automation will enhance product quality and consistency, building consumer
trust and loyalty.
investment in automation may be high, but in the long run, it significantly
reduces labor costs, material waste, and downtime due to equipment failures,
translating into substantial savings.
With higher efficiency and speed, automated packaging lines can meet the
growing demand for food products, especially in rapidly urbanizing regions.
Challenges in the Adoption of Automation
automation in liquid packaging brings numerous benefits, but the path to full
adoption is challenging. Several challenges need to be proactively addressed to
unlock the full potential of automation and chart a successful course for the
future. These include:
Gap: The transition
to automated technology requires workers to acquire new skills. Investment in
training and education will be key to successfully harnessing the benefits of
automation depends heavily on digital data, protecting this information from
potential cyber threats will be crucial.
to Regulatory Changes: With the incorporation of automation, new regulations may arise.
Businesses will need to stay ahead of these changes to remain compliant.
the Future of Liquid Packaging
of liquid packaging in the food manufacturing industry will be molded by
automation. It's a catalyst for transformation that stands at the crossroads of
innovation, efficiency, and sustainability.
Through automation, manufacturers
can quickly meet evolving consumer demands, maintain competitiveness in a
dynamic market, and contribute positively to environmental sustainability. It
also creates new opportunities for introducing innovative packaging designs and
materials, stimulating creativity in packaging solutions.
As we look
toward the future of liquid packaging, the influence of automation cannot be
overstated. With its ability to increase efficiency, enhance accuracy, improve
worker safety, and foster sustainability, automation represents a fundamental
shift in the industry's landscape. Challenges in adoption exist, but with
adequate preparation, training, and regulatory adherence, these can be solved.
Ultimately, automation will help to redefine standards in the food
manufacturing industry. Food Institute Focus
Upswing in Restaurant Sales
restaurant sales increased 3.6% in June when compared to June 2022,
representing their highest levels since March, according to guestXM by Black
Box Intelligence. Comparable traffic declined 2.2% during the period.
growth has been negative for 10 of the last 12 months, with the only months
with growing guest (January and February) lapping 2022 when the spread of the
Omicron variant keeping people from visiting restaurants. Full Story
beat Wall Street's
revenue estimates for its second-quarter earnings and revenue, driven largely
by the Grimace Birthday Meal as same-store sales grew 11.7%, reported CNBC
(July 27). Full Story
Subway's same-store sales increased 9.3% in
North America in the first half of 2023 and continues to generate sales growth.
Sales have increased for 10 straight quarters, thanks to a boost in digital
sales. Subway continues to search for a buyer, reported Restaurant Business
(July 25). Full Story
sweetgreen reported its first profitable
quarter as a public company in adjusted earnings as automated restaurants and
subscription loyalty programs are showing potential to attract more customers.
Same-store sales were up 3%, though the progress still missed Wall Street's
expectations and stock prices tumbled, reported Restaurant Business (July
28). Full Story
Brands missed its
revenue estimates despite soaring KFC sales. Though it topped Wall
Street expectations, the Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC parent company
fell short of revenue expectations despite KFC same-store sales rising 13%,
fueled by demand in China, its largest market, reportedCNBC (Aug.
2). Full Story
Corp. reported a 7%
increase in North American same-store sales, falling below market expectations.
The company noted sales in China rebounded sharply, rising 46% in the third
quarter, reported Reuters (Aug. 1). Full Story
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