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Fast food and the consumer desire for place

May 7, 2004

In a scramble for market share, fast food companies are rapidly and radically shifting and extending their brands to stay relevant to the increasingly health conscious consumer. McDonalds pulled the super-size menu amid some controversy and will roll out apple slices and juice as an option instead of fries and soda in happy meals. Jack in the Box is touting their healthy new panini menu. KFC, which now stands for Kitchen Fresh Chicken, is now roasting chicken in their biscuit ovens instead of just frying it in the vats. Burger King, after failing in 2003 to turn around their declining sales trend with the health-conscious salad and baguette sandwich approach, has switched brand-focus to order customization, Starbucks-style.

These companies are not just changing their menus and repositioning their brands, but are actually questioning whether reshaping the store environment can be a leverage tool in keeping and winning increasingly conflicted fast food consumers. Watch for a gradual shift away from the stark utilitarian store layouts, fixtures, lighting and the famed uncomfortable seats designed to minimize sitting time. Major players like Jack in the Box and McDonalds are running test markets to see what happens when they completely abandon the transactional, ‘get as many bodies in and out as possible’ organizing principle in their store environment designs.

McDonalds is experimenting with contemporary, homey stores with played down golden arch logos and Swedish furniture. An example in London. An example in Colorado

Jack in the Box has created brand extension, JBX, with wait-staff, a played down logo, a healthier fusion menu and a very un-fast-food ambiance. An example in San Diego.

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