Guess which sizes are missing from Starbucks' drive-thru menu

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Sep 14 2010


If you need to read the menu at a Starbucks drive-through, then you must not be too familiar with the overpriced, burnt-tasting coffee they sell there. Since Aug. 31, you, the latte amateur, have been told that you can buy "grande" and "venti" sizes—that would be the 16-and 20-ounce cups o' joe. There's no mention on the tote board, though, of cheaper alternatives like the "short" (8 ounces) or "tall" (12 ounces). Deceptive? Starbucks, of course, says no. A company rep tells USA Today: "We did it because our customers were frustrated with the difficulty of reading our drive-through menus." Again, the card-carrying loyalists already know what they want—it's the lapsed, occasional and/or new customer who needs the details. And not telling them that there's a half-price version of that 300-calorie drink they're considering is just plain dishonest. I recommend going elsewhere for a caffeine fix, but if you insist on Starbucks, just order a "small" and see what happens. And please report back—if your friendly neighborhood barista tries to upsell you, that's one thing. If he/she ignores your attempt at frugal indulgence and hands over a grande, then the chain has some 'splainin' to do.

You can put Sizzler on wheels, but that doesn't mean you should

By T.L. Stanley on Fri Sep 10 2010


If I wanted to go to Sizzler, I would. But I don't, as much as I love me some down-market food on occasion. So, if given the chance to buy lunch from a Sizzler-branded truck, would I? The obvious answer involves whether I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere with no other options. But some folks might jump at the chance, even if there's a perfectly mediocre Home Town Buffet a block away. That's what Sizzler is hoping for, anyway, as it puts its meals on wheels for the first time. The food-truck business, born in Los Angeles but spreading far and wide, is about to get more crowded as Sizzler, Shakey's Pizza, Subway, Koo Koo Roo and other well-known restaurants launch mobile versions of their brick-and-mortar venues, says the Los Angeles Times. Aside from being rolling advertisements, the trucks would bring in extra bucks, especially if they tailor their menus to on-the-go diners. So the advantage to the chains is clear. But this franchised army will suck what's left of the cool factor right out of the mobile-food phenom, which is kind of a shame. Not to mention the added traffic in gridlocked Southern California. Outta my way, Johnny Rockets truck—I'm trying to get to Olive Garden!

McDonald's gets inspirational with its beefy 'Angus Axioms' site

By Todd Wasserman on Fri Aug 27 2010


McDonald's wants you not only to enjoy its Angus Snack Raps, but to be inspired by them. That, at least, seems to be the thinking behind "Angus Axioms," a promotion the brand rolled out this week on Facebook. Mad Libs-style, the site asks you to enter your name, an interest and a "random adjective." The result, in my case, is above. I've never actually had an Angus Snack Rap, so I don't feel comfortable using this as a status update, but I do agree that life flavored with Swiss cheese is awesome.

Quiznos invites you to create commercials as horrible as theirs

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Aug 25 2010

A word of warning: If you're on an acid trip right now, or think of taking a tab, don't watch these ads. They'll freak you right out. I'm sober as a judge, and I'm still unnerved after sitting through rasta dogs and pirate cats "singing" about toasted sandwiches. Quiznos, obviously you think your pet-centric commercials from WongDoody are high-larious. But you might be the only one. So, why did you have to go and invite other people to add to this disturbing cutout-kitten oeuvre? Why? Here's the contest, anyway: Submit your own version of the spots to, and you could win some cash ($3,000, $4,000 or $5,000), and your video could be used as torture for the rest of us. Good luck, all. And please lay off the drugs.

Qdoba has cure for harrowing epidemic of burrito boredom blues

By Elaine Wong on Tue Aug 24 2010

In this recessionary economy, eating the same thing over and over every damn day (excuse our French) can be so, well, boring. Building on its "More to Explore" campaign, Qdoba has now launched, a site that aims to put the zest back into burrito eating. Those who suffer from burrito fatigue (diagnosed via a self-test) can find a cure for the burrito blues via the site's "flavor builder," which lets you discover the multitude of options available at the burrito chain (rival Chipotle has also touted a similar message) while redeeming coupons. Qdoba is also encouraging consumers to tell the world how they overcame their own bouts of boredom for a chance to win a year's worth of free burritos. And don't worry: Qdoba guarantees you won't be bored by that amount of food. As Doug Thielen, manager of non-traditional marketing at the company, puts it: "Qdoba is much bigger than most people [think]. … The idea is, there are people out there suffering from burrito boredom, and they're looking for a cure to get them out of that rut." Motive in Denver is Qdoba's agency.

McDonald's food now simply flying off the chain's delivery trucks

By Elaine Wong on Mon Aug 23 2010


Beware the giant McDonald's food flying off the restaurant chain's delivery trucks! That's right—french fries and Big Macs appear to be struggling against the wind in a new "moving billboard" campaign on delivery-truck sides. The backs of the trucks also have messages for drivers. "Whip through traffic," says one, showing McCafé shakes. Another (image after the jump) shows a container of fries and the message, "No passing." Honk! Honk! Oops, we're holding up traffic!


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KFC franchisees clucking mad about the 'Unthink' ad campaign

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Aug 17 2010


It's the chain that brought you the Double Down, that bunless bacon, cheese and fried-chicken monstrosity, 10 million of which were gobbled up within a few months of its launch this year. Now, KFC is bringing us another controversy of the caloric kind. Franchisees are so unhappy with declining sales and the way the Yum! Brands chain is being run, they've sued corporate to get control of the advertising and hired their own marketing consultant (ex-McDonald's honcho Larry Light) to help them get their message out locally. And that message invariably centers on fried chicken. The emphasis from management, though, has been on how to "Unthink KFC" and focus on the grilled chicken that's supposed to be less of a heart stopper. Here's what one franchisee thinks about it: "They hire marketing guys with blue blazers who tell us what to do with our damn stores. But it's one thing to be behind the big mahogany desk calling the shots and another to be down here in the trenches." The customer likes his grease, y'all, and "doesn't give a damn how many calories are in it," another franchisee tells BusinessWeek. So much for that lower-calorie choice—an internal survey of 642 franchisees found that more than half of the grilled chicken gets tossed in the trash because consumers don't buy it. Read more about the ruffled feathers here (those franchisees sure are a colorful lot), and remember the Colonel's Original Recipe has a birthday coming up. Drumsticks all around!

San Francisco considers waging its own war against kids' meals

By David Kiefaber on Mon Aug 16 2010


Fast-food chains are feeling threatened by a proposed San Francisco law to ban toys from kid's meals that are too high in fat, calories or sodium. As we reportedly earlier, Santa Clara County already adopted a similar measure, but it doesn't extend all that far. San Francisco's idea is a bigger threat, and the California Restaurant Association is not happy about it. "Toy bans are only proven to disappoint kids, frustrate parents and generate headlines for ambitious politicians," says CRA director of public affairs Daniel Conway. "The Board of Supervisors needs to stop gorging on political gimmicks and instead focus on creating jobs in their city." Don't worry, that isn't the only eating-related pun in Conway's remarks. He also notes that "the San Francisco Board of Supervisors seems to have an insatiable appetite for punishing the restaurant industry." Which is true to a point—California's crusade against junk food is a little silly compared to its other massive infrastructural problems—but it's also true that fast-food restaurants don't do enough to feature their healthier options alongside their traditional offerings. Fast food without fries and milkshakes is still fast, after all, so all the crowing about choice and convenience just sounds like a cheap rationalization for poor dietary decisions. That said, California is broke, so good luck enforcing this law should it actually pass.

Los Angeles goes nuts at the opening of new Chick-fil-A location

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Aug 16 2010


Here in granola and detox land (i.e., Southern California), it's always great to see people go apeshit at the opening of a fat-and-sodium-heavy fast-food joint. The West Coast launch of Krispy Kreme? Lines for days. And the first Chick-fil-A in urban Los Angeles, which premiered last week near the USC campus? Same. Which could be written off as college kids having nothing better to do than sleep on the sidewalk for the promise of free grub. (The first 100 people through the door got gratis Chick-fil-A for a year.) But I suspect the location wasn't the only reason for the crowd. Those fried sammies are wicked good, after all. You could get them at only two spots in the L.A. area until now, as the Atlanta-based chain usually sticks to mall food courts and free-standing stores in the 'burbs. There's a new strategy afoot, though, and it involves city-center restaurants. Washington, D.C., and Chicago are scheduled to get a few Chick-fil-As, too. So, as a welcome to the City of Angels, I'll impart a little Chick-fil-A trivia that the locals should know: The stores are always closed on Sundays (it's a day of worship, heathens!); ad agency The Richards Group coined the "Eat mor chikin" tagline and created the cow mascots; the "Moo Manifesto" dictates that those cows never speak; and you can order a single chicken nugget (no combo meal with that). Eat up, Angelinos! And check out the video of the opening, via Thrillist, after the jump.

TCBY jets into the future with its own ultramodern interior design

By Robert Klara on Fri Jul 23 2010


Those of you who follow the intersecting planes of cutting-edge interior design and, uh, cheeseburgers will probably remember how McDonald's started redoing its restaurants in 2006 into Euro-chic nooks (see the four images below) with wood-slat room dividers, amoeba-shaped couches and avant-garde muraling (all courtesy of French tastemaker Philippe Avanzi, though executed in the U.S. by Lippincott Mercer). The idea wasn't just to update the look of restaurants that hadn't had a facelift since 1976 but to cater to the visual discernment of the digital generation by creating "linger zones" with puffy couches and WiFi connections to go with those nifty new Asian salads.
  Well, add another restaurant chain to list of those out to woo the eyes and palettes of the digi-kid crowd. TCBY, the brand that introduced the swirly stuff now known as fro-yo back in 1981, last week opened up a new prototype store in Salt Lake City (see above) that's not only based on a self-service model (think of the labor savings!) but has given more work to those Jetsons-loving interior designers—StruckAxiom, in this case—who'll tell you the Atomic era has returned in the form of Saarinen tulip chairs and pink and purple mushroomy things. According to TCBY, the new digs "synch up nicely with a shift in the consumer mindset, particularly among Gen X and Y." And why not? "Y" is already in the brand name, after all.




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