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Domino's Pizza has had quite a successful year as its overhauled pizza recipe continues to resonate with consumers. So, too, has its new products such as stuffed cheesy bread and parmesan bread bites.
The parmesan bread bites – introduced in February – are the brainchild of longtime franchisee Brian Edler of Findlay, Ohio. According to Tate Dillow, Domino's "Chicken Chef," the item is a perfect example of cost-effective menu innovation, as it used what was already available in Domino's stores.
Dillow was part of a panel at a National Restaurant Association Show session held last week titled "Cost Effective Menu Ideas That Keep Customers Coming Back." He was joined by moderator Harry Crane from Kraft Foods Inc., Mackenzie Gibson, product innovation manager from Sonic Drive-In, and Marshall Scarborough, R&D chef from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Each discussed how their brands used cost effective approaches to menu innovation.
Marshall Scarborough, Popeyes
Scarborough said Popeyes typically spends about 18 months testing new menu items. The test involves research, ideology sessions based on feedback, operations, market tests and sometimes re-testing.
Scarborough outlined specific limited time offers that have been particularly successful for the brand, all of which were created using cost-effective methods, such as further processing in the back of the house, instead of having it done by a third party and then shipped frozen. By taking out the middleman, Popeyes was able to keep its price point low on its popular chicken and seafood items. Scarborough explained the R&D process for some of the chain's biggest LTOs.
"We've had a great deal of success with all of these, and we did it by innovating new products using what we already had in our restaurants," Scarborough said.
Mackenzie Gibson, Sonic
Gibson explained a similar cost-effective process for Sonic using its popular beverage platform.
"It's about building upon what you're good at and for us that includes drinks. It's cost effective for us. There are 398,929 drink combinations at Sonic," she said.
Gibson also pointed out the chain's successful move from soft-serve ice cream to real ice cream. The switch took 24 months and features a more expensive product, but the benefits were realized immediately.
"We could take that new real ice cream platform and roll out a Red Velvet Cheesecake Blast, for example. The flavor is more upscale and our customers like that. This became one of our most successful promotions," Gibson said.
Finally, Gibson pointed to Sonic's successful rollout of premium beef hot dogs last year. Hot dogs, she said, are on trend because of regionality and the increased presence of food trucks. The chain already had chili cheese dogs on the menu and was able to create a full lineup from that base.
"Also, your vendors make or break your product. They need to be on deadline and make sure it's cost effective. Then marketing and operations get involved. It's about innovating what you're already good at. People already love you and your restaurant, play off of that," Gibson said.
Tate Dillow, Domino's Pizza
Dillow said innovation, for Domino's, is important because pizza is such a saturated market and it's difficult to differentiate.
His tips for creating cost-effective menu ideas include:
Read more about food and beverage innovations.
Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability , Cheese , Domino's Pizza , Financial Management , Food & Beverage , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Operations Management , Pizza Sauce , Pizza Toppings , Research & Development / Innovation , Trends / Statistics
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