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Following the Restaurant Crowd
By: Janet Kalandranis
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The restaurant industry is made up of various levels of eat-in, take-out, quick-bite, and special-occasion options. Each has its own brand, some stronger than others, but each is relative to the area it inhabits within that restaurant category. Those in the fast-food and quick-casual segment tend to focus their brands around convenience and price; it’s been like that for years, and they could have continued with that brand message for more to come. But there’s a subset of brands within this restaurant category that are identifying what customers want and making it accessible AND convenient.

The more famous restaurant brands have always played the price game. Buy one, get one or $1 deals and even limited-time offers were the standard. No one expected the price brands to all of a sudden talk quality and process and ingredients. But they are. They are talking loudly, and the question now is if this will change the brands and the restaurant industry.

McDonald’s started this change by talking about its fresh-fruit smoothie line. Yes, fresh fruit at McDonald's. This was followed by Taco Bell working with celebrity chef Lorena Garcia to develop a new “Cantina Bowl” filled with fresh ingredients. That’s right; a burrito bowl with real Haas avocados. Adding to this brand mix is Applebee's, which takes the first half of its new TV spots to talk about what a fresh ingredient is and how the brand is only using an ingredient at its freshest. These messages are not uncommon; it’s just that they have not been a focus of the brands that are much more concerned with price.

The jury is still out as to whether these messages are believable for certain brands and whether they are responsible for making a positive brand impact. Can brands that have always been concerned about price and convenience cross the line and evolve with consumers? Are these brands mature enough to take the leap and talk about freshness and ingredients and stand up to the criticism that surely will ensue? But most importantly, will these brands lose core consumers or gain some new ones?

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About the Author
Janet Kalandranis is here to give you all the little brand thoughts that run through her head with a little dash of spice. Find her online here.
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