Food Writer's Diary
Arby’s starts weird Leap Day tradition

Arby’s starts weird Leap Day tradition

This post is part of the Food Writer’s Diary blog.

Oh Arby’s, you bunch of scamps.

The quick service sandwich chain is at it again, picking on vegetarians. It's using Leap Day as an excuse.

Arby's has been on a meat kick — well management would say it has always been on a meat kick, but it really has been since mid-2014, when it launched its “We have the Meats” campaign, highlighting the wide variety of meat the chain has introduced in recent years, apart from the thinly sliced roast beef that has been its bread and butter for the past 50-some-odd years. 

Last year, the Atlanta-based chain started trolling vegetarians with things like the hotline in the video below that it invited them to call if they had trouble resisting the Brown Sugar Bacon it introduced last summer.

(The hotline still works as of this writing; I checked)

Now, on Feb. 29 it says it's extending an olive branch to vegetarians by offering a vegetarian menu.

Really, they’re planning on swatting vegetarians with that olive branch.

Arby's vegetarian Roast Beef Sandwich

Here's a picture of the vegetarian Roast Beef Sandwich.

This is the menu description: A toasted sesame seed bun minus Arby's famous thinly sliced roast beef, marinated and roasted in Arby's restaurants every single day. Available in Classic, Mid or Max sizes.

Some items are, well, not much better, like the vegetarian Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich, which has smoked gouda cheese, onion rings, mayonnaise and barbecue sauce.

The 3,346-unit chain actually has some vegetarian food. It has fruit-filled and chocolate turnovers, curly fries that can be topped with Cheddar cheese and cheese sauce if you want, potato cakes, milkshakes, jalapeño poppers and mozzarella sticks.

Arby's vegetarian Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich maybe

Management seems fine with picking on vegetarians, though.

In the press release announcing the fake olive branch, Arby's chief marketing officer and brand president Rob Lynch said, “At Arby's we’re proud of our meats, but we also understand that meat isn’t for everyone. So we’ve decided to give vegetarians a reason to visit Arby's on Leap Day by offering a one-day menu designed specifically for them. If it goes well, we'll likely bring back the vegetarian menu on Feb. 29 each year.”

Get it? Because Feb. 29 only happens once every four years.

I asked Arby’s why they chose Feb. 29 for this, and a spokeswoman said it was because Leap Day was a day for “odd traditions.”

Actually, I think there’s just one odd tradition on Leap Day, and that’s women proposing marriage to men, which is a thing in parts of Europe on Feb. 29, and which in 2016 really shouldn’t be that odd.

At any rate, a bunch of restaurants are offering Leap Day specials this year, many of them including free food for people born on Feb. 29, of whom there aren’t very many — 200,000 in a country of more than 300,000,000, according to the estimates I've seen — or specially priced items for everyone, such as 29-cent tacos or $2.29 pizzas (with the purchase of another pizza at full price).

Schlotzsky's is marking the occasion with a hodgepodge of deals at participating restaurants in its 347-unit system, including a free sandwich with the purchase of chips and a 32-ounce drink, a BOGO for any entrée or $1 off any sandwich. Sure, why not?

Noodles & Company is using the occasion to promote its online ordering platform at its more than 480 locations. The Broomfield, Colo.-based chain is telling customers they can “leap the line” by ordering online, which they can always do, actually. But if they enter the code leaptheline at checkout on Feb. 29, they get a $4 discount on orders of $10 or more. That’s pretty good.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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