Menu has broad appeal; huge pipeline of LTO items helps drive sales and maintain flexibility to adjust to commodities market
One of the turning points for our Brand came in 2013, when we asked ourselves some hard questions:
- Why doesn’t everyone know we have more than roast beef?
- Why do some people not believe we have high-quality meats?
- Why does most advertising in the QSR space seem to be about everything other than the food?
- What if we made our advertising all about the food?
- What if we not only showed the food, but also the raw ingredients?
Those questions led not only to our outstanding “We Have the Meats®” advertising campaign; they also led to a limited time offer strategy that highlights the diversity of our menu, and an advertising and PR strategy that highlights the quality of our offerings. Guests can now meet the Meats at arbys.com/the-meats.
Menu developments shift brand perception
Corporate Executive Chef Neville Craw says the way people perceived Arby’s began to shift significantly when we debuted smokehouse brisket in 2013. At first, a lot of potential guests were skeptical. So we found a creative and world-record-setting way to prove the quality of the product: a 13-hour commercial showing the entire smoking process.
Grant Troja, who owns Arby’s restaurants in Cincinnati and in Chattanooga, TN, says that Arby’s used to be known as the place to get roast beef sandwiches. Now, “guests know we have steak sandwiches, smokehouse products, and the deli concept, so it’s a much broader appeal,” he says. “I feel very good about the direction of our Brand. Innovation is key: finding what your guest wants and delivering. Arby’s and its leadership team have done a very good job of doing that.”
Arby’s menu appeals to a wide range of guests, thanks to a commitment to quality Meatcraft™, which includes smokehouse brisket, prime-cut chicken, thick cut pepper bacon, angus steak, Alaska pollack, roast turkey, hickory-smoked ham, and corned beef. We don’t rely on deep discounts to drive transactions.
Menu is appealing at multiple price points
The Smokehouse Brisket sandwich is a premium sandwich, priced near $6 in most markets, and it was one of the most successful promotional launches in Arby’s history. Now, it’s a fixture on the menu. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Arby’s launched five sliders: mini sandwiches that use the same quality meats, and which fit a meager budget, making them perfect for young guests and people looking for a snack. The sliders also give Arby’s the ability to appeal to value-shopping guests without the need to discount our core menu items.
Unlike the discount menus of other fast-food chains which erode margins without driving guest counts, franchisees report an increase in traffic, often from new guests who eat sliders as a way to sample the product. They then often upgrade their order on subsequent visits. The menu strategy makes Arby’s one of the best restaurant franchise opportunities, as judged by QSR Magazine.
“The vision on product innovation and thinking outside the box has been phenomenal,” says Rick Bentley, who owns Arby’s restaurants in Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. “Our franchisor has gone above and beyond. All we have to do is execute. They are bringing us the right products.”
How menu development works at Arby’s
Corporate Executive Chef Neville Craw says his favorite part of his job is inventing new items. “Rob Lynch, our CMO, we have this joke back and forth. I grab him, and I show him something, and I say, ‘This did not exist in the world yesterday.’ It makes me excited to get out of bed every morning.”
“The product pipeline is so rich that we have a backlog of great ideas that are ready to be executed”
The best ideas are then vetted by our R&D team. The best-of-the-best make it onto our 18-month marketing calendar. At this point, the product pipeline is so rich that we have a backlog of great ideas that are ready to be executed.
“The great thing about it gives us the ability to change direction when something happens that you’re not expecting,” says Brand President and Chief Marketing Officer Rob Lynch. “For instance, when the avian flu hit the industry hard, we were able to pivot away from a calendar of promotions that included a lot of turkey and move to other innovations that we hadn’t brought to market yet, like brown sugar bacon.”
We’re not afraid to have a little fun either.
Early in our “We Have the Meats®” campaign, we unveiled a promotional poster that showed all of the different proteins we offer guests, positioned one atop the other, like a mighty tower of meat.
“A general manager warned our senior VP of Ops, ‘Hey, this poster is cool and all, but someone’s going to want to order that as a sandwich,’ ” Neville says. “And everybody laughed and said, ‘Naw, that’s not really possible.’ But then everybody kind of scratched their heads and asked, ‘Why not? Why can’t it be a sandwich?’ So we went and built it and realized, ‘This is actually good!’ ”
The Meat Mountain was born. The $10 mega-sandwich is a secret menu item.