Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Win for Wireless?

Apple, Inc. hints at a possible move into wireless ordering, and quick-serves could benefit.

Consumer electronics and software giant Apple, Inc. made waves last month when the company filed an application with the U.S. Patent Office for a wireless ordering system, and quick-serves should be paying attention.

In U.S. Patent Application #20070291710, Apple describes technology that would allow consumers to use a wireless device, such as a phone or media player, to remotely order merchandise from a participating merchant. In and of itself, that's nothing new. A number of text and mobile ordering companies have been around since at least 2006, and chains like Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Quiznos, Dunkin' Donuts, and Subway are already utilizing the technology to some extent. But what Apple proposes to do could take the concept a step further by addressing a primary weakness of current systems.

“Apple has a way of taking technology that's been around a long time and presenting it in a new way,” says Ken German, a senior editor with technology web site CNET.

And as described in the patent application, that's just what Apple is proposing to do.
“In order to initiate such a remote transaction [as with current methods of text and mobile ordering] using a cell phone, a user must be aware that a merchant of interest is nearby …,” the application states. And that's precisely the variable Apple's proposed system would address, by placing wireless communication devices inside establishments, so when a consumer with an enabled phone or other device is within range, their options for purchase appear. After selecting an item, users would then receive a notification when their order is ready, so they could pick up the item without waiting in line.

Apple already has a relationship with Starbucks, allowing users of the company's online music store, iTunes, to wirelessly download songs playing inside cafes with the push of a button, and that has led to speculation that the coffee giant could be the first to utilize the new ordering technology if or when it becomes a reality. For its part, however, Starbucks is staying mum.
“We have made no announcement beyond the partnership we currently have with Apple and iTunes,” says Starbucks spokeswoman Bridget Baker. “However, we are committed to continuing to innovate on behalf of our customers. As consumer acceptance of Wi-Fi connectivity and innovation grows, we’ll continue to explore a variety of options and will make decisions based on what we believe will be the best customer experience.”

Noah Glass, CEO and founder of GoMobo, a current provider of mobile and text ordering for restaurants, says Apple's entrance into the market could be the push the technology needs to reach ubiquity.

“I think it's a big validator of the concept we've been doing in the marketplace for over two years,” he says.

Apple doesn't do things half-heartedly. They're not going to do something just because it's trendy.”

German agrees.

“Typically, Apple doesn't do things half-heartedly,” he says. “They're not going to do something just because it's trendy.”

And wireless ordering is catching on, albeit slowly. GoMobo currently provides text and mobile ordering capabilities to around 200 restaurants in New York City and 10 other areas, including Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Customers love the convenience of being able to avoid the lines, Glass says.

“They're coming back more and more with the service,” he says. “Those who are using this at four or more restaurants are using it incredibly frequently.”

Restaurants, especially quick-serves, are also reaping the rewards. Glass says some locations report sales volumes of $3,000 or more a month through the service, and mobile and text orders on average are 24 percent larger than those placed at a traditional point-of-sale system.
“It's like how using a credit card you spend more than you would with cash,” he says. “This is even more abstract. When you're just hitting buttons and food appears, it doesn’t feel like you're spending a lot of money right now.

Speed of service and order accuracy also improve with use of the service, as crew members can focus more on filling rather than taking orders—kind of like if customers were ordering from a kiosk. The difference, Glass says, is that the upfront costs aren't nearly so high.

“It's much easier to use the equipment already in customers' pockets,” he says.

If Apple does get into the wireless ordering game, CNET's German says the system will probably only work with the company's own products—iPods, iPhones, or other devices yet to be released—limiting the number of consumers who could take advantage. GoMobo and other companies, however, target all phones with web or texting capabilities.

In any case, it could be a while before we find out how this scenario will play out, German says, and there likely won't be any warning, as Apple is famous for springing its new developments on an eager populace without much advance notice.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Starbucks testing $1 coffee, free refills

They are showing signs of problems and stiff competition

Starbucks Corp is testing $1 coffees and free refills, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, as the global coffee chain faces increasing competition from fast-food rivals.

The report said Starbucks is experimenting with a "short" $1 cup as well as free refills for brewed coffee in its Seattle-area stores. Starbucks charges around $1.50 to $4.00 for a coffee, depending on size and flavour.

Starbucks was not immediately available for comment, but the report quoted the company's spokeswoman.

Shares in Starbucks have lost around half their value over the past year amid worries about U.S. consumer spending, over-expansion, and competition from fast-food rivals such as McDonald's Corp (MCD.N: who offer specialty coffees.

The report said that $1 undercut regular coffee prices at both McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts, a unit of Dunkin' Brands Inc., which start in the low $1 range.

Starbucks announced a management reshuffle earlier this year, bringing Howard Schultz back into the chief executive position. It also said it would close underperforming U.S. outlets and speed up international growth.

Starbucks has around 15,000 stores around the world including over 10,000 in the United States

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


The morning daypart is heating up.

Concepts large and small are paying more attention to breakfast. There are even a few emerging chains—First Watch, Cereality and the Egg & I—dedicated exclusively to this daypart. Why now? The following stats provide convincing reasons.

Breakfast accounted for almost 20 percent of restaurant sales in 2006, according to NPD Crest, which tracks the foodservice industry. The morning meal has grown an average of 3 percent each year over the last three years.

At limited-service restaurants, breakfast sales rose by 47 percent in the last five years, states Packaged Facts in its 2006 Breakfast in the Foodservice Market report.

Takeout breakfasts outnumber sit-down meals by 2:1, NPD discovered. Besides QSRs, the segment that has seen the most breakfast activity is hotels, says Lynn Dornblaser, director of Mintel Custom Solutions. “We see breakfast consumption increasing 10 percent in the future, with on-the-go breakfasts shaping and impacting that growth,” notes Eric Auciello, director of marketing research for Kellogg Specialty Channels. To capture a piece of the breakfast pie, purchase products and develop menu items that fit the trends.

Trends to watch
The $65 billion U.S. foodservice breakfast market is poised to grow, reports Packaged Facts, pointing out these trends:

Competitive QSRs are upgrading ingredients and beverages to attract breakfast business. Breakfast all day is likely to expand.

Bakery cafes are offering more variety and sophistication in both breakfast handhelds and beverages.

Beverages are booming, especially specialty coffees and teas, smoothies and drinkable meals.

Latin-flavor items are gaining ground, a result of increased Hispanic buying power and ageing Boomers looking for more assertive seasonings to wake up their taste buds.

In lodging foodservice, hotels are striving to differentiate the morning daypart by offering cooked-to-order complimentary breakfasts and “picnic” breakfasts packed to go.

Casual and fine dining are menuing creative, healthier options. Whole grains and vegetables are showing up more often.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Where it's mini Turkish or even yeasted Moroccan, flatbread is on the rise

Flatbread, the latest American food trend is quick, versatile and healthy - and not new at all.

Sometimes called the original bread, flatbread has been a culinary staple for centuries. In Mexico it is a tortilla. In Ethiopia, it's injera, Those who live in India eat naan, roti or chapati. And in Israel they enjoy matzoh.

In the United States, flatbread - named because it contains little or no leavening to make it rise during baking - is a fast-growing part of the nearly $14 billion bread industry.

Flatbreads can be found everywhere from grocery store shelves to fast-food menus and fine dining restaurants. They come in dozens of different varieties, from crisp cracker-like sheets to soft, easy-to-roll discs. Consumers can eat flatbread made with whole grains or flavored with sun-dried tomatoes.

It wasn't long ago that the only flatbreads available were pita pockets and tortillas.

Cookbook author Naomi Duguid co-authored Flatbreads & Flavors in 1995. At that time, flatbread was still seen as something ''a bit marginal'' and ethnic, she said. But as chefs began to put flatbread in bread baskets, it became far more common.

''Now you can go into any grocery store and there's going to be a whole group of breads you could call flatbread,'' she says. ''We've moved from the conception that bread has to be a loaf.''

Flatbread has become so popular that new product launches in the U.S. went from 12 in 2005 to 51 in 2006, says Joanna Peot, spokeswoman for Chicago-based market research firm Mintel International Group.

Papa Pita, a 25-year-old company based in Utah, has seen double-digit sales growth in recent years, said a company spokesperson. The company sells to all major grocery stores in Utah and 17 other states. Most of the

Flatbreads at a glance

* AREPA: (Venezuela) Made from cornmeal, it is typically split open and stuffed with cheese, meats or other fillings.
* BAMMY: (Jamaica) Fried cakes made with grated cassava and soaked in coconut milk before frying.
* CHAPATI: (India) Usually spread with ghee - clarified butter - or dipped into curries.
* FOCACCIA: (Italy) Soft and thick, it resembles pizza crust.
* INJERA: (Ethiopia) A slightly sour, spongy bread used as both a plate and a spoon when eating stews.
* LEFSE: (Norway) Made with mashed potatoes and used to wrap sandwich fillings.
* LAVASH: (Middle East) Available hard, like a cracker, or soft, like a tortilla.
* PITA: (Middle East) Puffy, round bread that is cut in half and pulled open and filled.
* SANGAK: (Iran) Large enough to feed an entire family.
* TORTILLAS: (Mexico) Comes in corn or flour varieties. Good for tacos and enchiladas.
* YUFKA: (Turkey) A thin, round flatbread made from wheat flour.

The Cook's Thesaurus

Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants in the area also serve their flatbreads.
Healthy eating trends explain most of the growth. These unleavened breads typically have less sugar and little or no fat.

Versatility is another reason for the popularity. Flatbread handles a turkey sandwich as easily as a smear of hummus. It also works for numerous Latin American dishes and as the base for the all-American pizza.

And unlikely as it may seem, fast-food chains have helped fuel growth. Wraps and other flatbread sandwiches have been appearing on numerous menus, including those at Quiznos and Arby's.

Bruce Bakh, owner of Pars Market, sells several different varieties of flatbread at his Middle Eastern store at 3949 S. Highland Drive, in Holladay.

Lavash, sometimes called Armenian cracker bread, is the most popular.

"If you are on the run and want to roll something, this large, soft bread is definitely the best," he said.

But few people are disappointed when they purchase the market's sangak - one piece of this Persian flatbread is $2.29.

"Probably 85 percent of the people who try it come back for more," Bakh said. "It smells and tastes so good."

And that's something that is always trendy.


This sour, spongy bread is a staple of Ethiopian cooking and is served at nearly every meal. Typically made with a sourdough starter and allowed to ferment, the recipe below is streamlined for American kitchens.

2 cups teff flour or whole wheat flour (not stone-ground flour)*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 cups club soda
2 tablespoons clarified butter
In a large bowl, whisk together teff, all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt and club soda. Stir wet mixture into flour mixture to make a smooth, thin batter. Strain to remove any lumps.
Grease a large frying pan with a tight fitting lid with butter and warm over medium-high heat. Pour 1/2 cup batter into pan in a spiral, starting at the center. Cook for 20 seconds. Cover pan and cook an additional 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate. Cover with a cloth to keep warm while cooking remaining batter.
Makes 12 flatbreads.
*Teff is a grain that is often available at health food and organic stores.

Source: The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa, by Marcus Samuelsson. (John Wiley & Sons, $40.)

Moroccan bread

This fragrant, yeasted flatbread is studded with anise seeds and sesame seeds. It is traditionally used to mop up the sauce of tagines, but also would be good with stew.

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 tablespoon anise seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds (optional)

All-purpose flour, for kneading and shaping
In a small bowl or cup, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and stir until creamy.
In a large bowl, combine semolina and salt and, if using, anise and sesame seeds. Make a well in the center.

Add yeast to well. Gradually add 1 cup warm water, mixing in flour as you go. Knead to make a rough ball of dough.

Remove dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 3 minutes, then invert bowl over dough and let rest for 15 minutes.

Knead dough for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.
Shape dough into a ball, cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
Flatten dough by hand into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone pastry mat. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour, or until dough has about doubled in volume.
About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden all over. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 1 loaf.

Source: Savory Baking from the Mediterranean, by Anissa Helou (William Morrow, $29.95)


2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoons canola oil, plus about 4 cups for deep frying

In a large bowl, combine curry powder, salt, sugar and flour. Make a deep well in the center. Whisk egg and egg yolk together, then pour into well. Add coconut milk, chicken stock and 1 tablespoon canola oil. Slowly stir until all the liquid has been absorbed and the dough forms a ball.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, 10 to 15 minutes. Shape dough into a ball then cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a large 1/2 -inch-thick rectangle. Cut into 2-by-4-inch strips.

In a deep pot over high heat, warm 3 inches of canola oil until 350 degrees. Working in batches, carefully drop dough strips into oil, stirring to keep them from sticking together. Bread will puff and rise to the surface. Fry until brown and crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes, turning once to brown both sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately. Make 24 pieces.

Source: The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa, by Marcus Samuelsson. (John Wiley & Sons, $40.)

Mini Turkish flatbreads

These Turkish flatbreads, also called yufka, are thin like a tortilla. Use them as wraps for crumbled feta cheese and diced vegetables. They also are great with hummus and baba ghannouj.

1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and shaping
1/3 cup bread flour
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
In a large bowl, combine flours and salt. Make a well in the center. Gradually add 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons warm water. Knead until you have a rough ball of dough.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 3 minutes. Invert bowl over dough and let dough rest 15 minutes. Knead for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Divide dough into 10 equal pieces. Shape each into a small ball, rolling dough between your palms.

Sprinkle a tray, or part of the work surface, with flour and place the balls of dough on the floured surface. Cover with a wet, but not dripping, kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Roll out each ball of dough, sprinkling with more flour every now and then, to a circle 7 or 8 inches in diameter. Place circles of dough between dry kitchen towels.

Warm a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. When pan is very hot, cook breads, one at a time, for about 1 minute on each side, or until lightly golden and small lightly burned spots have bubbled up.

As breads cook, stack between clean kitchen towels. Use immediately or let harden and stack in a dry place, where they will keep for weeks.

To refresh breads, sprinkle each sheet with a little water, fold in half, and wrap in a clean kitchen towel. Let rest for 30 minutes, or until bread becomes soft and pliable. Makes 10 pieces.
Source: Savory Baking from the Mediterranean, by Anissa Helou (William Morrow, $29.95)

Baba ghannouj with Lebanese flatbread

4 pita breads
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
2/3 cup olive oil

Baba ghannouj:
2 small eggplant, halved
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup ground almonds
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons mint leaves
Olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper
To make flatbread, split pita breads through the middle and carefully open them.
Mix sesame seeds, thyme and poppy seeds in a mortar and crush lightly with a pestle.
Stir in olive oil. Spread mixture lightly on cut-sides of the pita bread. Broil until golden brown and crisp. When cool, break into rough pieces and set aside.

Place eggplant, skin-side up, on a broiler pan and broil until skins have blistered and charred.
Transfer to a bowl, cover with crumbled paper towels and let cool for 10 minutes.
Peel eggplant. Chop flesh roughly and let drain in a colander.

Squeeze out as much liquid from eggplant as possible. Place flesh in a blender or food processor.
Add garlic, tahini, ground almonds, lemon juice and cumin and process into a smooth paste. Roughly chop half the mint and stir into dip. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon dip into a serving bowl, sprinkle with remaining mint and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Serve dip with Lebanese flatbread.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Making the Internet Work for You

How quick-serve has evolved on the Web.

Large companies—including quick-serve restaurants—often use television, radio and print advertisements to reach their customers. Marketers know that creating an ad with a compelling message will build brand loyalty and drive customers to their local stores. And they probably do. But an online campaign is a nice complement to that offline strategy, as it offers the ability to target your varied customer base at the right place and the right time.

As the quick-serve industry becomes more segmented and competitive, marketers are placing a greater emphasis on reaching customers with targeted messaging and having measurable campaign results. All of this can be done online in a way that directly benefits your offline business.

Consumers are Searching Online for Restaurant Information

To help quick-serve restaurant marketers understand more about the Web and explore how their potential customers are using the Internet, Google commissioned a study, conducted by Media Screen Market Research. The research revealed that nearly 70 percent of quick-serve consumers go online to find restaurant information, including location, directions, hours, and menus. Of these customers, more than half use search engines to learn about eating opportunities.

Between Web sites, search engines, and online video, the Internet engages potential customers in an in-depth way. Because consumers are using the Web to find specific information, the Internet can reach potential customers at key decision-making moments. For example, our research indicates that about 40 percent of quick-serve customers decide where to have lunch while at work during the hours before noon. The Internet is the dominant media outlet used at work, with 56 percent of American workers using the Internet at the office, according to the Ball State University Center for Media Design. Thus, the Web offers an important opportunity to reach potential consumers while they are at work and looking for information about restaurants.

Targeting and Measurability

The Web offers restaurant brand marketers the ability to target their message to potential customers in a number of ways. For example, companies can use search advertising to target customers with an advertising message after the customer has entered keywords into a search engine. These advertisements are called sponsored links. For example, a restaurant marketer might complement their offline campaign by buying keyword advertising associated with their latest menu promotion. By bidding on specific keywords, restaurants can direct advertisements to appear in front of potential customers when they are searching for promotions or specials they may have heard about offline. Ads can be also be targeted to appear next to Web searches made within a certain distance of a particular location. In other words, someone using a search engine to find out about eating options can be served with targeted advertising about quick-serve establishments within driving distance.

Contextual targeting places ads on our partner Web sites (i.e. NY Times, and that are related to the context on that page. For example, if a potential customer is reading a news article about Mexican food on a site with contextual ads, they might see advertisements related to Mexican restaurants. This type of targeting is effective because it directs messages to potential customers who are already engaged on a particular topic.
Additionally, marketers can purchase banner ad and video ad space on specific Web sites that have partnered with an online advertising network to reach specific demographics. An online banner and video ad campaign can then be developed and distributed on a series of sites that meet only their target market requirements, thus eliminating some of the waste that can occur when doing larger mass media offline campaigns.

Quick-serve marketers can also benefit from the measurability of online campaigns. From Web page impressions to click-thru rates and ROI on online sales, almost every area of online marketing is quantified and compiled into a performance report. The report shows an advertiser which sites their advertisements ran on, as well as the metrics for their ads on those sites, allowing a company to identify high- and low-value sites for their business. This measurability allows quick-serve marketers the opportunity to change the sites that their ads run on, and if necessary, refine their messaging during a campaign as they see what messaging is resonating with customers.

Online As Part of Overall Marketing Campaign

Opportunities on the Internet go beyond just having a comprehensive and regularly-updated Web site with store locations, directions, hours, and menu items. Restaurant marketers are using the web to launch new products and new menu items; reach a segmented target audience for limited time offers; for seasonal promotions and market-specific messages; to drive gift card sales; promote new store openings and build community ties.

Earlier this year, Goggle worked with Baskin Robbins on the chain’s Love Chocolate promotion. Baskin Robbins executed an integrated package of search, contextual and display advertisements targeted towards specific demographics and interest groups (such as chocolate lovers). By directing a message to consumers interested in chocolate, Baskin Robbins was able to generate significant returns for a relatively small amount of money. The Love Chocolate ads by Google generated 25 million page impressions for Baskin Robbins, ultimately contributing to more than half of its online promotional registrations.

Looking Ahead

Over the past year, some restaurant marketers have started recognizing that online advertising can reach the large set of customers on the Web. Given the targeting, measurability and engaging content available online, they have successfully used the Internet to complement their overall marketing efforts. Using online media to reach the quick-serve customer base is just beginning, as new mediums such as online video and social networks continue to grow. Products and technology will continue to evolve online, and so will restaurant marketer's use of the Web.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Updated Food Pyramid for Older Adults Released

Researchers at Tufts University, Boston, have updated their Food Guide Pyramid for Older Adults, originally published in 1999, to correspond with the USDA’s 2005 MyPyramid Plan. Specifically designed for adults over the age of 70, the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults emphasizes nutrient-dense food choices and the importance of fluid balance and regular physical activity. The updated guide also offers guidance about which forms of foods best meet the unique needs of older adults.

The Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults includes icons representing the following categories:

• Whole, enriched, and fortified grains and cereals such as brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread.
• Bright-colored vegetables such as carrots and broccoli.
• Deep-colored fruit such as berries and melon.
• Low- and nonfat dairy products such as yogurt and low-lactose milk.
• Dry beans and nuts, fish, poultry, lean meat and eggs.
• Liquid vegetable oils and soft spreads low in saturated and trans fat.

New to the pyramid is a foundation depicting physical activities characteristic of older adults, as well as a row of glasses intended to stress the importance of consuming fluids. Other icons depict packaged fruits and vegetables, which are appropriate for older adults as they are easy to prepare and have a longer shelf life than fresh produce. Also included is a flag at the top suggesting that older adults may need certain supplemental nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

“Adults over the age of 70 have unique dietary needs,” says first author Alice H. Lichtenstein, D.Sc., director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts (USDA HNRCA). “Older adults tend to need fewer calories as they age because they are not as physically active as they once were and their metabolic rates slow down. Nevertheless, their bodies still require the same or higher levels of nutrients for optimal health outcomes. The Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults is intended to be used for general guidance in print form or as a supplement to the MyPyramid computer-based program.”

The Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults is scheduled for publication in the Jan. 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.