Chains see underdeveloped hours as the best source of new revenue.
This article first appeared in the 15 July 2006 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
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By Kristina Buchthal, Senior Editor
As chains target per-store sales growth as the best strategy for boosting revenue, every hour in the day is being evaluated for unrealized potential. McDonald's is extending hours to grab more of the late-night business rival Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy's has lured. Wendy's, conversely, covets Big Mac's morning strengths and has announced its intention to add breakfast next year.
Panera Bread is strong at breakfast and lunch but wants to increase the 20% of its sales that evening hours represent. To do that, the Richmond Heights, Mo.-based bakery-cafe concept is rolling out Crispani, a flatbread pizza available only after 4 p.m.
Moving even further from its coffee-and-doughnuts core menu are Bites, small dough rounds filled with taco-spiced meat, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, or smoked pulled pork with barbecue sauce.
Some chains find that changes in equipment or portion sizes can open new dayparts. Saladworks is testing dinner-sized salads with choice of nine different hot proteins-such as baked chicken, tilapia, prime rib and shrimp skewers-in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of entrée salads at casual-dining chains. Paul Steck, chief operating officer for the Conshohocken, Pa.-based made-to-order salad chain, says it intends to settle on six proteins for dinner salads.
"To be a rockin' company, you need at least a second daypart," Steck says. "We want to come up with a product offering that resonates with consumers."
Steck says Saladworks also must decide how it will differentiate dinner offerings from its cold-salad lunch fare. Hiring hosts to seat guests during dinner, dimming the lights or adding table service have been considered.
"We're going to have to change people's mindset. Is it candles on tables?" Steck asks. "We have to do something that changes guests' perceptions" of Saladworks.
Turning Up the Heat
Subway, too, has set its sights on dinner. Once the Milford, Conn.-based chain outfitted its stores with toasters to compete with Denver-based Quiznos Sub and other toasted-sandwich chains, it realized there was potential to add dinner-style sandwiches.
Subway has introduced Chicken Parmesan, Tuscan Chicken and Italian Trio subs, backed by a "Subway Dinner Theatre" television ad campaign that leaves no doubt about when these additions are meant to be eaten. Dinner accounted for 32% of total restaurant customer traffic in 2005, according to Port Washington, N.Y.-based The NPD Group.
"We're open at night anyway, so we're trying to remind people that there are foods other than fried chicken, pizza and burgers that people might have for dinner," says Les Winograd, Subway spokesman.
"It's about sales, and saying, 'If you're coming in for lunch, come in for dinner too.'"