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Behind the story
new-Popeyes chicken sandwich_2019_c.jpg Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
Popeyes' promotion has disrupted the chicken sandwich segment in a big way.

How do you make a splash in an ocean of foodservice options?

Nation’s Restaurant News editor-in-chief on the art of standing out

NRN editors take you beyond the headlines and offer perspectives on the issues and events shaping the industry. Get more inside takes from Behind the Story >>

Jenna-Telesca_4.gifOne hard truth in foodservice is there’s a finite number of customers. After all, there are only so many people in America — about 327 million, according to the latest U.S. Census.

And while restaurants can work to get those 327 million folks to buy more meals out in general, restaurants still have the big challenge of standing out in a crowded field.

Over the last decade of reporting on the food and restaurant industry, I’ve watched the amount of options for meals grow and grow.

Convenience stores, grocery stores, drug stores, warehouse stores — they all offer excellent options for prepared foods. Consider the cult of the Costco chicken.

With the expansion of delivery, customers can get food wherever they want it and whenever they want it.

I’ve watched customers demand more from their ingredients, calling for more transparency and lobbying for changes in how the livestock are raised, effectively changing the very foundations of the American food supply. Now, restaurants dedicate webpages to outline animal welfare and sustainability pledges. They detail what ingredients go into the dishes and what diets those ingredients cater to.

From the options to the sourcing, the bar is higher than ever for restaurants of all sizes.

In the spirit of healthy competition, Nation’s Restaurant News regularly offers case studies on how to use short-term promotions for longer-term business gains.

No one saw the Popeyes chicken sandwich hysteria coming. The promotion lit up the internet the first time — and the second time — the sandwich rolled out, contributing to sky-high comps, up almost 10%, for Popeyes’ third quarter. Senior editor Gloria Dawson recently explored the mechanics behind that promotion and what that kind of viral interest does for restaurant traffic.

nrn-cover-nov18.pngIt’s been an exciting year for limited-time offers and senior editor Nancy Luna looks back on the most effective promotions — and ahead at what will be trending in 2020. Food trends like plant-based products are an important factor in LTOs, but experts weigh in on the importance of the right timing and frequency, too.

Marketing is important but it’s not all chasing lightning in a bottle. Time and time again, customers have shown that perceived value is critical.

“Value is the relationship between quality and price,” Mark Kuperman of Revenue Management Solutions told NRN’s senior food and beverage editor Bret Thorn. “Keeping those in balance, whether it’s a $5 item or an $18 item, is really critical.”

In a recent feature on how restaurants are reworking the value equation, Bret reports on how to keep that feeling of value while balancing higher labor costs.

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy in the competitive foodservice world, but one thing is for sure — a restaurant business needs to continually evolve in order to survive.

As one of Nation’s Restaurant News’ art directors Sue Pearsall always says, “Never settle.”

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