Free At Last
By Deborah Cassell
Quick-service restaurants serving bread-based menu items such as sandwiches, burritos and pizza, are thriving in today’s Atkins-free marketplace.
Now that Atkins is dead, a bread mania has ensued, freeing many consumers from their fear of all things carb-laden. Perhaps as a result, quick-service restaurants that serve sandwiches, burritos and pizza — all bread-heavy products — are finding new fans and bringing back formerly protein-focused patrons.
At least that’s one possible conclusion based on Sandelman & Associates’ recent study of 121 restaurant chains and 62,000 quick-service restaurants in 61 markets. The San Clemente, Calif.-based research firm’s seventh annual Quick-Track Awards of Excellence include 2005’s Top Rated Chains Overall, a compilation of both mainstream and lesser-known fast food and quick-service providers, from burger joints and chicken chains to pizza parlors and sandwich shops
Panera Bread took the second place spot, with 57% of patrons giving an “excellent” rating to the bread-based chain. Panera’s sister company, St. Louis Bread Co., also made the Top 10, further supporting the bread-is-back trend.
Mainstream Mexican fast food chain Chipotle, where bread-eaters tackle oversized tortillas and corn chips, as well as beans and rice, earned a Top 10 ranking, as did regional Southwestern favorite Chico’s Taco’s. Olé!
Regional pizza chains Idaho Pizza Co., Chicago Connection Pizza and Imo’s Pizza ranked in the Top 10, as well, proving that carb-loaded crusts are no longer feared, but enjoyed. Southern California’s Pat & Oscar’s, known for its hand-rolled, fresh-baked breadsticks, as well as a broad-based menu that includes pizza, also made the Top 10.
Despite the increased variety of fruits, vegetables and salads on both fast food and QSR menus, bread remains a key ingredient to success at retail. Consider Panera’s “fresh bread makes friends” mantra, and you may find yourself breaking bread more often, too. SF&WB
Dashboard Confessional
By Deborah Cassell
We’ve all done it, as exhibited by that darkened ketchup stain on the floor mat, the grease spots on the passenger seat, those grains of salt stuck to the steering wheel and — the most damning evidence of all — that balled up, day-old takeout bag in the backseat.
Admit it. You’re guilty as charged.
Truth is “dashboard dining” has become part of our on-the-go lifestyle. In fact, 60% of Americans are eating and allowing others to eat in their cars, according to a national survey conducted by Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research and Taco Bell Corp.
That’s good news for fast food purveyors … and bad news for consumers. Unfortunately, the “drive-thru” effect can have serious consequences not just for you, but for your ride.
And a quick stop at the local car wash may not be enough to prevent the long-term toll messy fast foods may take on your vehicle’s once immaculate interior. Only 34% of survey respondents said they view a clean interior as “the most important attribute to the long-term value of their vehicle.” However, like everything else, it’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that counts.
“With people spending more time in their vehicles, the number of dashboard diners has also increased,” says Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “The dirty little secret? Messy interiors could potentially cost owners thousands of dollars when it comes time to turn in or sell their vehicles.”
One solution is to cover your car seats in plastic, much like that 80-year-old couch at Grandma’s house. A better — and less embarrassing — choice might be to purchase easier to eat (and harder to spill) drive-thru products, such as Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme.
“Our guests tell us they want products that better facilitate their busy, on-the-go lifestyle,” says Bill Pearce, chief marketing officer of Taco Bell Corp. “With this in mind, and the fact that drive-thru accounts for nearly 70% of our business, we have created a portable product that’s easy to eat in the car. Crunchwrap Supreme is the classic Taco Bell taste made modern, and its benefit is being able to eat it, not wear it.”
In 2005, QSR Magazine named the Crunchwrap Supreme “Best Meal for on the Move.” The self-contained flour tortilla is grilled to seal in all the flavors, and is composed of a crunchy tostada shell, seasoned beef, nacho cheese sauce, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. The Crunchwrap Supreme is available for $1.89 at participating locations.
So, no more excuses. Time to ‘fess up to your past fast food indiscretions … and to get that car detailed, both inside and out.
Top Rated Chains Overall
1.In-N-Out Burger
2.Panera Bread
3.Idaho Pizza Co.
5.St. Louis Bread Co.
6.Chicago Connection Pizza
8.Pat & Oscar’s
9.Chico’s Tacos
10.Imo’s Pizza
Source: Sandelman & Associates’ Quick-Track Awards of Excellence, 2005