Turnaround report: McDonald’s adopts triple-check service, Olive Garden offers a toast

Restaurant Reality Check is beginning a weekly report to keep you apprised of how some of the industry’s most celebrated ICU cases are trying to rise from the Posturepedic and flex their financial might again. Parties that want to highlight their own turnaround efforts are encouraged to email us at promeo@cspnet.com.  Offended parties can object in the same manner.

McDonald’s quietly switches to “ask, ask, tell” order-taking. 

The burger chain smartly continues to take a scattergun approach to a turnaround, looking at dozens of opportunities large and small rather than taking a moonshot approach slugged with a catchy sound bite—“Back to basics,” say, or “becoming customer centric again.”

The most recent example to come to light: A change in the process for confirming drive-thru orders. To hand over precisely what the customer wants, staffers wearing a headset inside the restaurant will ask twice for the order, then repeat it back to the patron.

The challenge, of course, is adding the second ask without slowing service, an issue the chain is simultaneously addressing by scaling back the number of items listed on drive-thru boards.

The new service protocol came to light on the same day that McDonald’s dropped the bombshell about going dark on comp sales. From now until further notice, CEO Steve Easterbrook said, the company will no longer disclose monthly same-store sales.

Olive Garden tweaks its breadsticks and salad again.  

The Italian chain’s two signatures, unlimited breadsticks and a “bottomless” bowl of salad, were kicked repeatedly during a bitter struggle last year for control of Olive Garden’s parent, Darden Restaurants as examples of what the chain was doing wrong. Now the outsiders who won the battle can’t seem to throw enough of a spotlight on the customer favorites.

The breadsticks will be offered not only as a freebie to guests, but also toasted, sliced and included in an a la carte appetizer.

The Caesar salad will similarly be dressed up for a charge. For a fee, patrons can have it topped with chicken.

Rebounding Burger Kings.

The distressed Burger King stores acquired in 2012 by Carrols Corp., the chain’s largest franchisee, were outstripped only by Chipotle in comp-sales growth for the first quarter, according to our review of every public restaurant company. The units posted same-store sales gains of 10.5 percent, compared with 6.8 percent for what Carrols calls its “legacy” BKs.  Margins for the acquired stores were still lagging, at 7.5 percent, but Carrols expects the profitability to climb to 10 percent by the end of the year.


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