CHICAGO -- In the battle for every last mealtime buck, restaurateurs are constantly churning out new strategies to increase traffic and sales. What tactics should the convenience-store retailer know about—and steal—from its restaurant brethren? Read on to learn the latest from the industry’s key players, and visit our sister site, Restaurant Business, for your daily predatory stalking.
Olive Garden’s unlimited pasta pass
Olive Garden is selling 21,000 Never Ending Pasta Passes this Thursday—10 times the number it sold last year in a mere second. This time around, the passes will be on sale for just one hour—or until all 21,000 cards are purchased.
Cardholders can show their pass at Olive Garden restaurants for an unlimited number of times and feast on pasta and soda for no extra charge between Oct. 3 and Nov. 3. Last year’s run was considered a success and even triggered an aftermarket on sites such as eBay, where prices exceeded $2,000.
Burger King’s Cheetos Chicken Fries
Burger King is adding another foodservice-CPG crossover to its menu this week with Cheetos Chicken Fries. Burger King resurrected its popular Chicken Fries offering last year, leading to a sales increase. Several other versions have since followed, including fiery, Buffalo and jalapeno.
It’s not the first Cheetos-inspired mashup: The chain previously rolled out Mac n’ Cheetos, macaroni-and-cheese bites coated in Cheetos-flavored dust.
Starbucks’ brunch test
Starbucks is stepping outside the breakfast battle and trying its hand at brunch. The 78-restaurant test in the Pacific Northwest includes items such as French toast, quiche and Belgian waffles with blueberries, according to GrubStreet.
In a similar attempt to increase traffic during nonpeak hours, this summer Starbucks debuted its seasonal Sunset Menu, a twist on happy hour that offered a selection of desserts after 3 p.m. only.
Chipotle’s promo blitz
Chipotle blasted two free promos at the end of August in an attempt to raise its still-ailing traffic. One offer provides a free kids meal on Sundays through September to guests who buy a burrito, bowl, salad or order of tacos. The other gives a free fountain drink during September to any student who presents his or her high school or college ID.
Taco Bell’s Walking Nachos
Walking tacos have officially expanded beyond the realm of high school football games to enter restaurant and even c-store menus. Taco Bell is aiming to do one better with its Walking Nachos. Select North Carolina Taco Bell stores will feature the riff on walking tacos, also called Frito pies.
Papa John’s TV ordering app
Papa’s John’s has upped the ante in the ordering-technology race, allowing customers to place orders via Apple TV.
Adding fuel to the tech fire, Taco Bell, Burger King and others have in recent months tested bot ordering using a variety of social networks and chat platforms.