Not every surprise this holiday season comes wrapped and bowed. Restaurants both gave and received a few during Week One of the festive time, from a new identity for one of the business’s oldest chains, to a windfall too large to fit on any gift card. There was even something there for the worst of boys.
Here are a few we’ve unwrapped.
1. Dunkin’ Donuts’ new name
After sporting its current identity for 67 years, Dunkin’ Donuts is seeing how hometown fans will take to an alias. The chain is opening stores in the Boston area that omit the usual doughnut reference on exterior signage, sporting instead the streamlined name “Dunkin’.” The only nod to the brand’s signature product is a double “D” logo.
The test of the new name is part of a strategy revealed this summer to recast Dunkin’ as what President Dave Hoffman summed up as a “beverage-led, on-the-go” brand. As part of that effort, the new Dunkin’ is also cutting down the number of food items it offers, including doughnuts, and intensifying the spotlight on coffee.
The shortened name has apparently been used elsewhere, but few markets have the same connection to Dunkin’ that Boston has fostered. The chain started in that area, and remains headquartered in the suburb of Randolph.
The chain has said it will decide whether to go chainwide with the shortened name around the middle of 2018.
2. Wendy’s mega-windfall
Wendy’s still owns 18.5% of Arby’s, the result of once being sibling brands controlled by activist investor Nelson Peltz. Wendy’s was spun off to the public, and Arby’s was sold to Roark Capital.
Fast-forward to Tuesday, when Roark announced that it was buying Buffalo Wild Wings for $2.9 billion and merging it into Arby’s Restaurant Group, though the two brands will remain distinct.
If Wendy’s stake in ARG remains at 18.5%, the value of that interest would immediately skyrocket to about $775 million.
3. New Orleans women band together
As stories of sexual harassment continue to pour out of the media and entertainment industries, a group of female restaurant workers in New Orleans has come together to combat predatory behavior in their trade. The group, called Medusa, intends to develop training programs for restaurant managers. Meanwhile, by encouraging members to recount the inappropriate behavior of local bosses, it stands as a reminder to predators that they’re being watched.
The group was formed in the wake of allegations that sexual harassment was rampant within Besh Restaurant Group, one of New Orleans' most prominent multiconcept organizations. John Besh, who was accused himself of inappropriate behavior, resigned his leadership of the company, though it still bears his name.
4. Get ready for more tiered menus
Tiered menus, where items are clustered into price brackets instead of sporting an individual price, were the salvation of some full-service chains during the lean years following the Great Recession. Now they’re finding new currency as a way for quick-service brands to offer everyday bargains without destroying margins.
Jack in the Box revealed Thursday that it will try the approach in January with a limited-time menu divided into pricing tiers, from $1 to $5. The array will include individual items as well as bundled options “so that we can achieve [an] appropriate margin balance,” said CEO Lenny Comma.
McDonald’s has already revealed that it will move to adapt a value menu next year where a changing variety of products are offered at $1, $2 and $3 tiers. The chain expects the roster to generate at least the 10% of sales that are currently driven by its successful McPick 2 everyday deals.
5. Selling franchises the virtual way
Lost in the pre-Thanksgiving news crunch was a tidbit from an upstart in the wings market, East Coast Wings + Grill. The chain, which numbers fewer than three dozen units, mentioned in passing in a press release that it’s now using virtual reality to sell franchises. Prospects are able to see 3-D digital portrayals of what the concept looks like and how it functions. A sense of the brand can be delivered without a trek of hundreds or thousands of miles to visit an actual store.