Friday, October 3, 2008

Battle of the Restaurant Strategies

The economy is in the toilet - so people are eating “out” less often - and eating “in” more often (note the relatively strong earnings performance of value-food brands such as Kraft and Campbell’s). If you’re a casual-dining restaurant, you might be jumping on the “all you can eat” bandwagon to get customers in the door.

Red Lobster has an “Endless Shrimp” promo for $15.99 and Olive Garden has a “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” for $8.95.

Applebee’s has its “Endless Favorites” deal where you can spend $9.99 and gorge yourself on unlimited BBQ riblets, chicken fingers, and fried shrimp.

Chili’s has their “Bottomless Express Lunch” which gives you unlimited refills of soup, salad, and chips for $5.99.

The restaurants promote these deals because they get customers to order the “all you can eat” special - but then they also order drinks and side dishes - which boosts both the total check size (good for the restaurant) and the total calorie content (bad for the customer’s waistline).

On the opposite end of the restaurant-menu spectrum are the fast food joints that are rushing (or being forced in California and NYC) to put calorie information on their menu boards. Yum Brands (owner of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut) has pledged to start listing calorie info for its products starting this year and in all of its 17,000 U.S. outlets by the end of 2011.

At the fast food restaurants, the hope is that a customer might be less likely to order 2,000 calories worth of hamburgers, french fries, and soda (and instead order something healthier) if they are simply given the information so they know how many calories each food item contains.

On the other hand - the “all-you-can-eaters” at the casual dining restaurants might not particularly care about their huge calorie intakes - just so long as they can save a buck on lunch (which they’ll likely spend later on their diabetes and cholesterol medications and on their larger-size Levi’s).

I know how that last comment sounds - but c’mon - let’s wake up.

Thanks for reading,

Shawn Talbott, Ph.D.

I also blog on a daily basis at: (about various health and wellness topics) (about the pros and cons of dietary supplements) (about weight loss, metabolism, and feeling better) (about traditional Asian medicine, or TAM) (about nutrition for endurance athletes) (about metabolism, nutrition, exercise, and energy) (about the causes of and solutions to the obesity epidemic)

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