Why restaurant brands are seeking more ‘special trip’ traffic

Conventional brands are adding things like six-pack cookies and shakes to win special trip intents over fast-growing specialty concepts.

08 March 2024

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Photo Courtesy of Taco Bell

Potbelly just introduced a new six-pack cookie box, available in-store or digitally. In a statement, Potbelly’s CMO David Daniels said, “Our fans have an insatiable love for our cookies and now we’re making it easier for them to enjoy together with others, share as a gift, or save for later.”

In late 2022, Subway also launched six- and 12-pack “Cookie Bundles,” along with the debut of its limited-edition footlong cookie that is now available nationwide.

Meanwhile, KFC recently introduced its new Colonel’s Homestyle Brownie, while its sister brand Taco Bell is testing things like Churro Chillers shakes, Baja Blast pie, and the Taco Bell x Salt & Straw Ice Cream Chocolate Taco. Further, Wendy’s just teamed up with Cinnabon to debut a Cinnabon Pull-Apart breakfast offering, Chicken Salad Chick acquired Piece of Cake to sell its signature desserts, and Peter Piper Pizza is adding Buddy V’s Cake Slice and Dippin’ Dots options for guests. Shake Shack is testing desserts at select locations to see if they can boost afternoon traffic and, in Canada, Burger King added new “Blasts,” which are kinda like McFlurrys.

In other words, things seem to be getting a bit sweeter around here.

Of course, desserts – and indulgences in general – have been around forever and operators tend to like their incrementality as long as they’re operationally simple. As Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s chief food innovation officer, recently said during an interview, products like the Churro Chillers are “an add-on, an incremental sale, an extra afternoon or late-night trip, a special trip intent.”

That last point – a special trip intent – may very well be why we’re seeing some more activity in the dessert space. Consider recent data from both Technomic and Datassential showing that many of the fastest-growing concepts are either in the beverage/snack category or the frozen desserts category. Brands like Mochinut, Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, Andy’s Frozen Custard, Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream, Chip City Cookies, Dirty Dough and, of course, Crumbl are all growing sales and units by double, sometimes triple digits.

As these concepts continue to proliferate at a speedy pace, there is a risk some of the bigger chains could lose that special trip traffic. So, why wouldn’t Taco Bell explore shakes?

Notably, such specialty concepts, and their meteoric growth, aren’t new. Anyone remember the frozen yogurt bubble from about 10 years ago? Or cupcakes? Whether there will be a similar shakeout now is yet to be seen, but it’s becoming clearer that conventional (non-specialty) brands are building a stronger fortress to protect themselves from any threat of losing that “special trip intent” by bolstering their snack/sweet options.

Buying a six-pack of cookies from Potbelly likely lessens the need – or desire – to make another trip to Crumbl, no matter how quickly Crumbls are popping up. Specialty brands might be fun and Instagram friendly, but primary intent plus special intent equals convenience, and that often holds more weight.

Photo caption: Chef Shinobu Namae’s signature dish “Fixed Point” is a symbol of the restaurant’s culinary evolution. | Photo Credit: L’Effervescence

Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

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