Hey, stuff happens. This week, some of the industry’s most respected brands showed how differently they react when it does.
Burger King built two marketing campaigns around what most business people would regard as mortifying mistakes. Two sizeable casual operators threw up their hands and offered millions of dollars for outside help. Subway, the industry’s largest brand, publicly snapped back after being poked sharply about a product on its menu.
Read on for a voyeuristic view of other operations’ problems and how they’re trying to cope.
1. ‘Restaurant fire? Great, make an ad!’
A restaurant going up in flames is usually a catastrophe. For Burger King, it’s an occasion to crow about its use of live flames to charbroil burgers. A new ad campaign shows firemen trying to save Burger King restaurants belching smoke and fire. “Flame grilled since 1954,” reads the caption. The restaurants in the pictures really did burn, reports Business Insider.
2. ‘Our chicken sucked. Let’s tell the world!’
Transparency doesn’t stop with menu items, or at least Burger King is betting as much. This week, with the launch of a reformulated chicken sandwich, the chain is candidly explaining why it revamped the item: The prior version was terrible.
The brand makes that point in a new ad series that quotes what disgusted customers posted about the old sandwich on social media.
“The Dumpster even rejected my disgusting chicken sandwich from Burger King,” reads one.
“Burger King chicken sandwiches are so gross the chicken cutlets would be better used to stuff my bra,” says another.
Acknowledging the poor taste of the prior sandwich sets up boasts about the new version. The approach also helps the chain gloss over the new chicken patty’s smaller size.
3. Chicken with an asterisk?
Subway was likely taking notice. This week a Canadian TV station ran a report on what it learned from sending the quick-service chain’s chicken to a lab for DNA testing. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., only half the meat in a sandwich and chicken fingers qualified as real chicken. The rest, it reported, was soy filler.
About 85% to 90% of the meat in comparable products from Tim Hortons, McDonald’s and Wendy’s technically met the definition of chicken, the CBC found.
Subway denied the allegations, saying its studies found only a marginal amount of soy had been mixed with the chicken. CEO Suzanne Greco blasted the TV station’s research as “stunningly flawed” and demanded a retraction.
4. A good time to be a consultant
The winter has been a rough one for restaurateurs, but consultants may be too busy yacht shopping to notice. Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group revealed that it intends to pay Bain Consulting $3 million for insights on what to do with Del Frisco Grille, the lowest-priced concept in the diversified steakhouse company’s portfolio.
“Our goal is to really understand the emotional state of the consumer as they use Del Frisco's Grille today as well as making sure that we understand the share of wallet the consumer is using,” explained Group CEO Norm Abdallah.
The outlay is chickenfeed compared to the $10 million DineEquity has earmarked to aid its Applebee’s chain. Some of the money will be used to help franchisees suffering from the brand’s sales decline, but “a lot” will be go to “outside services to validate what we think went wrong,” said acting CEO Richard Dahl.