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McDonald's, Hurting Globally, Turns to Digital Pay Platforms—and Brunch?

Posted by Dale Buss on September 11, 2014 05:27 PM

There may be a silver lining to McDonald's supplier woes in China: The mess has hurt the chain's overall results so badly that its continuing decline in the US market doesn't look so bad by comparison. Now McDonald's is turning toward digital transaction technologies to save its bacon.

McDonald's global sales fell by 3.7 percent last month as its Asia-Pacific region dropped by 14.5 percent thanks to the food-safety scandal in China, in which an expose showed workers at supplier Shanghai Husi Food Co. repackaging expired meat. McDonald's cut off the plant in Shanghai and vowed to increase audits and video monitoring at suppliers, but the damage already was done in the minds of Chinese consumers, and who knows for how long.

Meanwhile, things weren't so hot in Europe either, with sales dipping 0.7 percent, certainly not helped by the fact that food-safety regulators in Russia shut down a bunch of McDonald's outlets citing food-safety concerns—a move that many analysts believe actually is a geopolitical gambit meant to send a message to America to stay out of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.Continue reading...

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Sip on a Bottle of Dom Perignon at Denny's Newest Location

Posted by Mark J. Miller on August 29, 2014 03:08 PM

Denny’s, the restaurant chain not exactly known for its glitz and glamour, has been undergoing a bit of a brand overhaul lately as "America's Diner" gives itself a much-needed update, including redesigning its current outposts and opening new ones.

Today, the first-ever Denny's in Manhattan opened in the financial district across from City Hall, but that's just the start of it. The Wall Street outpost isn't your typical Denny's. In fact, the fancy restaurant features a craft cocktail menu and a $300 Grand Slam brunch for two that comes with a bottle of Dom Perignon.

The restaurant, which is located on the ground floor of an upscale apartment building, has Prosecco on tap and features copper-stamped ceilings and leather couches—but for the most part, still features affordable, Denny's prices.Continue reading...

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McDonald's Searches for a New Positive with More Menu Options

Posted by Dale Buss on August 20, 2014 04:41 PM

Everything seems to be sticking to McDonald's these days. There was the food-safety scandal in China last month, and now the chain's very ubiquity has hurt it as the local, franchisee-owned McDonald's at the epicenter of the racial strife in Ferguson, Mo., has become unwitting headquarters for much of the back-and-forth in the building drama there.

Maybe that particular problem for McDonald's will pass quickly, but the beleaguered chain is continuing to battle its long-term challenges, ranging from the junk-food image of its menus to flagging sales growth to still-growing competition.

At least McDonald's is trying some new tactics as CEO Don Thompson tries to pull the world's iconic fast-food chain out of its deepening slump, with moves involving digital leadership, new forms of influencing thought leaders, new menu items and new attempts to leverage the strengths that it does have.Continue reading...

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With US Taco Co. Test, Taco Bell Takes a Swing at Fast-Casual

Posted by Dale Buss on August 6, 2014 06:42 PM

All the while, QSR analysts have been thinking that Taco Bell's Cantina menu was meant to be the brand's answer to Chipotle, but that may not be the case.  

On Monday, the Yum! Brands-owned chain is scheduled to open a concept store in Huntington Beach, Calif. called US Taco Co. after a half-million-dollar investment in the prototype over the last year. The idea is to appeal to educated foodies with disposable income who have been attracted to the unprocessed ingredients and authentic feel of Chipotle and many of whom would never frequent a Taco Bell.

"Taco Bell is Mexican-inspired; US Taco is American-inspired," Greg Creed, Taco Bell's CEO, told Nation's Restaurant News.Continue reading...

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With DLT Craze Waning, Taco Bell Turns to Breakfast and Protein to Goose Sales

Posted by Dale Buss on July 24, 2014 10:39 AM

Taco Bell is struggling with slow growth for the first time in a couple of years as the craze over its Doritos Locos Taco has petered out. Despite efforts to recharge the DLT brand with new iterations and even venturing into breakfast, Taco Bell has failed to keep sales on an upward trend. 

The start of 2014 was the first quarter since 2012 in which the Yum! Brands-owned chain saw negative same-store sales, putting Taco Bell back in the same boat with most other struggling fast-food operators like McDonald's. 

It seems like just yesterday that when Taco Bell launched a new flavor of DLT, the world—encouraged by the brand’s effective use of social media—seemed to go nuts, with DLTs, the chain's best selling product ever, seriously goosing sales.Continue reading...

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General Mills is Banking On New Flavors, Products and Grumpy Cat to Boost Sales

Posted by Dale Buss on July 10, 2014 04:29 PM

General Mills says it’s going to try hard to revive US cereal sales, but the CPG giant isn’t going to be content with re-inventing the wheel: The company also is investing heavily in a variety of other new products, in marketing to Millennials and in expanding its distribution in convenience stores and foodservice locations.

The company, like Kellogg's, has been stymied by a steady decline in sales of their traditional staple, ready-to-eat cereal. So part of its answer is to exploit more eat-away-from-home occasions where General Mills brands and products have never been a big part of the menu. C-stores have become a main target.

“Many of our snack items leverage our US retail brands and offer different formats and flavors specifically for our convenience-store customers,” said Bethany Quam, the company’s newly named president of convenience stores and foodservice, in a recent investor presentation.Continue reading...

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According to Domino's, There Is More Than One Way to Become a Pizza Mogul

Posted by Dale Buss on July 7, 2014 05:42 PM

The modern pizza industry was invented by two Michigan entrepreneurs who founded Domino’s and Little Caesar’s. The pair became the world’s biggest pizza moguls and now are reaching the end of their business legacies in two widely disparate ways, as Bloomberg Businessweek points out in its "Twilight of the Pizza Barons" cover story.

Tom Monaghan famously founded Domino’s a half-century ago in Ann Arbor, Mich., with a borrowed $500 to execute the chain’s now-iconic home deliveries. Around the same time, Mike Ilich opened a corner store selling pizzas in Detroit and called it Little Caesar’s.

The rest is fast-food history, as Domino’s has become a huge international presence through its franchised stores as well as No. 2 in US pizza-restaurant sales, with an 11.1 percent share compared with leader Pizza Hut’s 16.7 percent. Little Caesar’s still outranks rising Papa John’s for the No. 3 spot, with 8.8 percent of sales to 7.3 percent. Regional chains and independents sell the remaining 56 percent of American pizza pies.Continue reading...

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With Help from Starbucks, Dannon Breaks Out of Breakfast

Posted by Dale Buss on June 25, 2014 03:14 PM


Dannon is taking the lead in expanding yogurt consumption outside of breakfast. With new indulgence and dessert products and partnerships with Kellogg and Starbucks, the conventional-yogurt brand leader in the US market has emboldened its bid to grab significant share of stomach in day parts other than the morning.

“It’s natural that yogurt would be so well-represented at breakfast,” Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for Dannon USA, an arm of Paris-based Groupe Danone, told brandchannel. “But we believe that as problems in public health related to weight really continue to shape the perception of food and how food can contribute to a more healthy lifestyle, yogurt as a snack outside of breakfast, as an ingredient for cooking and as a meal accompaniment makes a lot of sense.”

To wit, for instance, Dannon next month is launching Dannon Creamery, a new line of eight dairy desserts that includes five “cheesecake-inspired” flavors made from Greek yogurt and fruit and caramel sauces, as well as three puddings. It’s Dannon’s first new brand since launching its Oikos Greek yogurt several years ago to compete with Chobani.Continue reading...

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