We’ve said it here before: Trying times bring extreme efforts to escape them. Just look at the peculiar sales diagnoses and remedies that were aired by restaurant operators this week.
In case you were too busy planning a Halloween outfit, here were some of the eerie moments.
1. What’s next for Subway?
In a rare interview, the reclusive co-owner of the Subway sandwich brand revealed this week that he believes the franchisor’s quickest route back to robust financial health is diversifying into other restaurant businesses.
Peter Buck, the nuclear physicist who lent a teenaged Fred DeLuca $1,000 to launch Subway in exchange for 50% of the company, told The New York Post he believes Subway should buy or start a bunch of alternative chains to regain its footing.
But that’s not what DeLuca’s family would prefer to do. Fred’s widow, Elizabeth, holds the other 50% of Doctor's Associates, Subway’s parent, and his sister, Suzanne Greco, is now running the chain. Their focus has been on reviving Subway by updating its look, operations and menu, not shifting resources into other businesses. In short, they don’t agree with Buck.
Since the Howard Hughes of the restaurant business fronted DeLuca the money to start the chain, the pair have tinkered with a number of alternative franchise businesses. Before DeLuca died, Subway had also tried a more upscale riff, Subway Cafe. But all of those efforts appear to have been put on a back burner.
2. Burger King's costume promotion
Burger King has undertaken a public service campaign to discourage bullying, but that hasn’t kept the chain from picking on its archrival. A group of restaurants in the chain are running a promotion that takes a swipe this Halloween at McDonald’s, or at least its universally known mascot, Ronald McDonald. Any customer who visits one of the participating restaurants while dressed as a clown will be given a free Whopper.
An ad for the deal features a clown who looks like a demonic version of Ronald, complete with suspenders and oversized shoes.
The off-beat promo is the latest attempt by Burger King to use clowns as a proxy for McDonald’s. BK’s Russian operation has complained to authorities that “It,” the movie based on a mad clown with a passing resemblance to Ronald, is really an ad for the Golden Arches and hence should be banned from movie theaters.
3. Papa John’s throws a flag on the NFL
Papa John’s pizza deliveries during televised NFL games have fallen from last year’s levels, prompting the chain to complain about declining viewership and the value of being a league sponsor, the New York Business Journal reported this week.
Papa John’s pizza has been the official brand of the NFL since 2010, and it has cited an affiliation with pro football, and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning in particular, as a key to the chain’s success. But NFL officials confirmed they were given an earful by brand executives because of an apparent decline in viewership.
Pro football has been mired in controversies over players refusing to stand during the pregame performance of the national anthem, a protest against the mistreatment of minorities. The NFL has also drawn criticism for putting players at risk of concussions and other injuries for the sake of profits.
Papa John’s complaints about the return from its NFL sponsorship prompted Nomura Securities restaurant analyst Mark Kalinowski to trim his forecasts for the chain’s third-quarter same-store sales.
4. A Dunkin' shopping spree
Competition may be slowing sales growth in the quick-service restaurant market, but Dunkin’ Donuts is having a great run in the supermarket. Retail sales of Dunkin’-branded products during the last 12 months topped $800 million, said Dave Hoffman, president of the doughnut chain’s North American operations. Just the sale of Dunkin’ pods for Keurig single-serving coffee brewers generated $600 million, he noted.
In a conference call this week with financial analysts, Hoffman spoke of pursuing more retail opportunities with the same weight he ascribed to the opening of more stores. Both are key objectives of what the chain is calling a new blueprint for success.
5. So what draws a sale?
Although restaurants are trying all sorts of new draws for customers, they might want to consider just a simple invitation—to four-legged visitors. A survey-based study released at the end of last week showed 56% of consumers favor places that allow them to bring along their dogs, and 32% said the ability to bring the pooch is one of their top three considerations in deciding where to eat.
The study, conducted by the restaurant tech firm Upserve, also found that 71% of consumers look for takeout and delivery service in deciding where to spend their money. More than half the respondents said they were not influenced by establishments’ alcoholic beverage selections, and 37.4% said a happy hour deal was not important to them at all.