News Column

Fast-food Chains Dish up More Value Deals

May 3, 2013
fast food

Consumers are giving the restaurant industry no choice but to let them eat cheap.

Late Thursday, value kingpin Taco Bell announced that it's close to rolling out a national "$1 Cravings" menu -- which it recently began to test in Sacramento and Kansas City.

Some prices on its current "Why Pay More?" value menu have crept up as high as $1.49 -- and this $1 Cravings menu would ultimately replace it. All items on the new menu -- including Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla and Beefy Nacho Loaded Griller -- are priced at no more than a dollar.

There's still no specific date for its rollout, but Brian Niccol, chief marketing and innovation officer, said, "I'm feeling good" that the line will go national.

The big restaurant chains don't do value deals because they want to, but because they have to. Restaurant customer traffic continues to fall at many chains.

Nationally, customer visits fell in March for the fourth-consecutive month, reports the National Restaurant Association.

Despite the wild success of its Doritos Locos Tacos, Taco Bell also will continue marketing its "Happier Hour" program through the summer, in which a number of food and drink items are sold for $1 each from 2 to 5 p.m. daily.

Among other cheap eats:

--Buy one, take one home. Through Sunday, Olive Garden is giving customers free entrees to bring home when they buy one from a group of five. The take-home entree -- which is served cold and comes with heating instructions -- can be different or the same. The promotion has received the highest consumer survey ratings of any promotion in the chain's history, says Jay Spenchian, executive vice president of marketing.

--$4 meals.After freezing menu prices in 2012, Steak 'n Shake has raised the stakes this year, offering 20 different meals for $4. "We aim to shield our customers from inflation," says Sardar Biglari, CEO of Biglari Holdings, which owns Steak 'n Shake.

--$5 lunches -- with dessert.Dairy Queen is offering the deal. "Consumers are still concerned about the economy, unemployment, underemployment and high gas prices," says Barry Westrum, marketing chief at American Dairy Queen. "They want more for their hard-earned dollar." With that in mind, he says, Dairy Queen may expand the $5 program to dinner.

--$8 large pizzas.Little Caesars is peddling its newest offering -- a large deep-dish pizza for $8.

--$20 dinner for two. Applebee's continues to offer its two meals for $20 deal -- with an appetizer.

--25-cent burgers. Earlier this week, White Castle was briefly selling sliders at 1960s prices: 25 cents.

--Free.Even as KFC heavily promotes its new "boneless" combo for $4.99, on May 6, from 2 to 4 p.m. local time, the first 100 guests who visit a store and say, "I ate the bones," get a free piece of Original Recipe Boneless.



Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013


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