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‘Step back, Jack’

Add Jack in the Box’s orb-headed spokesman to the list of restaurant-company mascots whose roles are being redefined.

Jack, the longtime star of the burger chain’s commercials, is surrendering the limelight to menu items and their ingredients, according to Lenny Comma, CEO of the chain’s parent company.

“Jack in the Box has long had an irreverent sense of humor, and that tone dominated our advertising, with the products sometimes playing second fiddle to Jack's personality,” Comma explained Thursday to financial analysts. “What you're seeing now and going forward is an increased emphasis on the product, with the humor playing a lesser role.”

Jack in the Box has been a holdout against the trend of cutting back limited-time offers and generally trimming menus to simplify kitchen operations and speed production. Burgers promising bolder flavors and higher quality ingredients were critical to posting a comparable-store sales gain for the second quarter of 7.3 percent, one of the highest in the burger segment.

Still, he indicated, the emphasis on LTOs is changing by degrees. “If you wanted a headline, the headline would be, ‘LTOs drove the success of Jack in the Box in previous years,’ and in future years, what you'll see is the core menu should drive sales and transactions, and LTOs should be the gravy.”

Comma revealed that the franchisor has a series of LTOs lined up for the middle of the third quarter, but did not divulge any particulars. “We don't want to use discounting as the major [sales] driver,” he explained.

Jack has been a very successful figurehead for the company, enabling the company to cut through the clutter with humor that is sometimes cutting edge, if not controversial.

He’s the latest mascot to get a call from his agent about a shift in roles. McDonald’s has downplayed Ronald McDonald and recently cast a spotlight on an updated Hamburglar. KFC resurrected Col. Sanders in the form of comedian and mimic Darrell Hammond. Wendy’s features a real-life version of its namesake character, while continuing to feature the sketch version in logos.

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