Sometimes you want fast food and sometimes you want something a little, well, nicer. We’re not talking white-linen-table-cloths nice, but something with less emphasis on “fast” and more emphasis on “food.”
Several fast food restaurants have recently answered that call, either by rolling out new upscale fast casual restaurants or introducing upscale menu items. Domino’s is an example of the latter. The pizza maker made waves earlier this year with TV ads that said “No!” to customers who wanted to add toppings to the company’s fancy artisan pizzas.
McDonald’s has also jumped onboard the finer-dining bandwagon. McD’s introduced its “Bistro Gourmet” restaurant-within-a-restaurant concept at several of its locations (pictured above is a location in Orlando). According to the company’s website, Bistro Gourmet can expect “exceptional chef prepared recipes prepared with loving care for you, blended with the classic McDonald’s menu featuring such items as paninis, fresh wraps, delectable desserts, and at select locations hand-tossed pasta and gourmet breakfast.”
Subway joined the movement, too, opening its first “Subway Café” in an upscale Alexandria, VA office building earlier this year. The eatery offers the usual sandwich choices, but also provides baked goods, hot and cold espresso drinks, coffee, and a variety of frozen blended beverages. Fifteen more locations soon followed and, according to Restaurant News, ten more are expected in the near future.
Décor at the Subway Café includes brick or wood-paneled walls, lounge-style seating with comfortable armchairs, and a fireplace. (Sounds an awful lot like a Panera Bread to us.)
So what’s this mean for food and beverage marketers? It means customization has gone far beyond diners choosing what they want on their sandwiches and has moved into all aspects of the dining experience, from the way a diner places an order—often with some form of technology off-site—to having more input on how the food is prepared.
MARKETING LESSON: If your brand fits the “fast casual” mold, it might be time to consider ways to upgrade that mold, either with changes to the product or changes to the atmosphere in which it’s served.