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May 2014 - ChainWise

News & info from ChainWise, the chain restaurants app

Chain Restaurants Fight for Breakfast Crowd

May 26, 2014 | By | No Comments

Not long ago you were limited to only three choices when it came to finding fast food chain restaurants open for breakfast: McDonald’s, McDonald’s or McDonald’s.

But on-the-go dining has come a long way. These days, when you open your ChainWise restaurant app in the morning, you’re likely to come up with plenty of breakfast options, from fast food fare to sit-down fast casual chains.

Sales Numbers Never Lie

Why the sudden interest in helping consumers launch their day? It boils down to pretty straightforward economics. Julia Gallo-Torees, U.S. food services manager for Mintel, told Market Watch recently that breakfast menu items are the only real growth opportunities fast-food and casual-dining chain restaurants can cling to.

The numbers speak for themselves. According to Mintel, breakfast sales rose over 5 percent to $27.4 billion in 2013 at quick-service and fast-casual chain restaurants, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Not to mention, every time you hit up a breakfast spot you found on ChainWise, you’re likely to end up contributing to continued phenomenal growth in sales of breakfast meats and eggs, which climbed 300 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Chain Restaurants Rise or Fall with Coffee

So, how are chain restaurants luring you in during the morning hours? Most are focusing on hooking you with a good cup of coffee to give them the edge on winning the much-coveted breakfast dollar. In fact, Warren Solochek, vice president of client development for the food service practice market research firm The NPD Group, told Market Watch that the following chain restaurants had all recently upgraded their morning coffee: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Burger King.

Chain Restaurants Coffee

Coffee is Key for Chain Restaurants

Just look at what happened when Taco Bell ran its breakfast food campaign using non-actors with the real name Ronald McDonald. Did McDonald’s retaliate in like fashion? No, it rolled out a campaign that gave out free coffee for two weeks to lure customers away from Taco Bell’s new breakfast offerings.

Boring But Profitable Breakfast Staple

You might be surprised to learn about another high-margin breakfast food that is continuing to grow in popularity with breakfast customers: oatmeal. There’s no solid explanation for why the lowly bowl of oatmeal has become so competitive among chain restaurants—Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jamba Juice, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and Caribou Coffee all serve a version—but the answer could be in the time it takes most people to cook it at home.

Sure, the instant packets are quick, but they’re just that: instant. The real stuff out of the paper canister tastes better. The tradeoff is the time investment, which eats into morning routine time, which eats into sleep time. Therein lies the reason folks are stepping up for a bowl at their favorite chain restaurant. It helps that many restaurants throw in goodies like raisins, brown sugar and nuts.

Another reason for the oatmeal trend is that it plays into fast food’s reluctance to give up on trying to market to an increasingly more sophisticated and health-conscious crowd. In most attempts to do so, new menu items have quietly disappeared not long after their arrival. But oatmeal with a gourmet flair seems to have enough sticking power to make a difference.

Certainly, it can be argued to the healthy-minded that oatmeal is the wiser choice, with a bowl of McDonald’s fruit and maple oatmeal with brown sugar sporting 290 calories, 4 g of fat, and 160 mg of sodium. Compare it to Taco Bell’s hotly advertised Waffle Taco at 370 calories, 23 g of fat, 115 mg of cholesterol, and 550 mg of sodium.

The dust is far from settling and the battle over breakfast is likely to continue. For now, it appears the consumer may just end up the victor, with more choices of chain restaurants and more menu items to start the day.

Written by Lori Weaver. You can find her on Google.

Voters Choose Top Fast Food Chains

May 21, 2014 | By | No Comments

Whether you are willing to take the leap and try something new the next time you’re on the road or you’re just ready to explore a new fast food venue in your hometown, the sheer number of choices can leave your head spinning.

Stifle that urge to run screaming with open arms back to your old standby. Instead, if you’re truly ready for some fresh ideas to grab a quick bite, a recent Business Insider survey naming the top fast food chains has got you covered.

Take a look at what survey participants believed to be the top dog in burgers, pizza and more, then use the free new iPhone app, ChainWise, to find fast food chains near you. No doubt you are likely to find one or two old favorites mentioned below, but you may also find a few vote-getters you have always passed by.

Of course, the final taste test will be yours.

Best Overall Fast Food Chains

1. Chick-fil-AWhen it came to best overall fast food chain, Chick-fil-A beat out such past favorites as McDonald’s and Wendy’s. Not only do diners enjoy the chain’s signature menu favorites of chicken fillet sandwiches, shakes and waffle fries, but the company drew strong praise for cleanliness and service. If you’ve made Chick-Fil-A a favorite on ChainWise but you see it has no nearby locations, take heart in knowing the chain is undergoing a massive expansion.

fast food chains

Chick Fil A is tops with voters among fast food chains.

2. Chipotle Mexican Grill. This Mexican food chain soared past a number of popular burger joints to come as close as just one percentage point behind top vote-getter Chick-fil-A. Survey participants gave Chipolte very high marks in quality of ingredients as well as ethics, edging them upward past longer-established chains.

3. McDonald’s. You knew the burger giant would show up somewhere near the top of any list of fast food chains, didn’t you? Survey participants found the familiarity and predictability of McDonald’s menu appealing, although others who chose the chain as their favorite did so because of new items, like the egg white delight sandwich.

Rounding out the top six were Wendy’s, Panera Bread, and Starbucks, all popular favorites by ChainWise users.

Best in Category Winners

Hungry for a fantastic fast food burger? Looking for the perfect pizza? Here are the top vote getters for a few fast food menu favorites.

1. Best Burger. It was Wendy’s classic burger, known as Dave’s Hot ‘N’ Juicy, that had what it took to slide past Burger King’s Whopper and McDonald’s Big Mac in this survey. Wendy’s has long set itself apart from its competitors by vowing it will always use fresh, never frozen, meat. The ability to customize each order is another secret to its success.

2. French fries. Fresh, hot, golden. McDonald’s fries were chosen by survey takers as being a cut above the rest. The chain left others in the dust, with Arby’s curly fries coming in at a very distant second. Other restaurants have tweaked their recipes for years, trying to dethrone McDonald’s as king of the fries, but none have been able to replace the strong consumer preference for the fries from the golden arches.  

3. Pizza. Competition among pizza chains has seen dozens vying for the biggest piece of the pie, but it is Papa John’s steadfast resolve to stick with what it does best that appears to have won the hearts of consumers. Perhaps better ingredients truly do make better pizza because the chain was able to nudge past Pizza Hut and Domino’s in a tight field.

4. Fried Chicken. That finger-lickin’ recipe of secret herbs and spices is still serving Kentucky Fried Chicken well. In yet another strong category, the Colonel was able to retain the fried chicken crown, with Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A settling for a second place tie.

Written by Lori Weaver. You can find her on Google.