Fast-food chains are increasingly collaborating with celebrities and it’s a brilliant way to borrow star power without the risks

Fast food celebrity partnerships McDonald's Popeyes Dunkin'
  • Major fast-food chains have embraced celebrity partnerships over the last year.
  • Brands like Dunkin’ and Popeyes can have the excitement of a new menu item without adding complexity.
  • Chains seem isolated from any backlash associated with celebrity partners.

McDonald’s, Dunkin’, Tim Hortons, and other chains keep launching partnerships with celebrities, and analysts say it’s a smart move.

Just this week, McDonald’s launched its Mariah Menu, discounting different classic McDonald’s menu items in December, and Tim Hortons announced it would serve Justin Bieber branded Timbits, called “Timbiebs.” Starbucks also announced plans to sell Taylor Swift’s favorite drink alongside the release of her latest album.

Partnering with celebrities has been a boon to brands. McDonald’s kicked off the trend with the Travis Scott Meal, which was available for a month in the fall of 2020. It was the first in McDonald’s ongoing Famous Orders lineup, consisting of a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, and lettuce, medium fries with BBQ Sauce, and a Sprite — Scott’s favorite meal at the chain.

The brilliance of the promotion was that McDonald’s got all the excitement that typically goes with a limited time offering, alongside the press from a celebrity partnership. But the meal didn’t add any complexity to the kitchen, because it used only ingredients already on the menu. 

“Operationally, it’s very smart to take that approach,” Mark Kalinowski, CEO and founder of Kalinowski Equity Research, told Insider. McDonald’s franchisees have pushed for simplified menus, something many major brands adopted in 2020 and into 2021.

The Travis Scott meal was so popular that some locations ran out of Quarter Pounder ingredients. It was also enriching for Scott personally, as he netted at least $20 million from the deal, according to Forbes.

“Everyone saw McDonalds do well, so it’s not surprising to see some other concepts emulate what they did,” Kalinowski said, though not all have been as successful as McDonald’s. 

The other important piece of these promotions is “culturally relevant entertainers,” who brands can tap into to attract younger customers, Kalinowski said. For example, Dunkin’ partnered with TikTok star Charli D’Amelio on a drink called “The Charli,” which became its most successful product launch ever.

Some of the celebrities working with fast food brands aren’t necessarily household names to the average McDonald’s or Burger King customer, but Saweetie, Lil Huddy, and Megan Thee Stallion are certainly known to younger, social media-savvy buyers. 

“Part of the hope is if you get somebody to be a customer at age 17 or 23, hopefully they’re still a customer at 77 or 83,” Kalinowski said. Brands that use relevant celebrities to appeal to young customers now could potentially be adding lifelong customers without having to invest in any major menu changes.

“You’ve got this outrageous celebrity with no investment in R&D for the product, and the celebrity’s just so much value,” Edward Cotton, a brand consultant who has worked with Chipotle and Jamba Juice, told Vox.

Celebrity partnerships can be hugely profitable for chains, but they also come with risks. Brands partnered with celebrities who behave badly or face bad press can suffer, with Subway’s Jared Fogle as perhaps the most famous example.

Limited time menu offerings don’t seem to carry the same risk for brands, because they come with built-in expiration dates. Travis Scott is currently facing criticism and legal action for the mass casualty event at his Astroworld Festival performance where at least eight died and 300 were injured. None of this bad press is landing on McDonald’s, despite its public partnership with Scott only a year ago. The chain has launched several other Famous Orders in the meantime, effectively protecting it from any scandals associated with Scott or any other celebrities it might partner with.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Fast food celebrity partnerships are a smart way for chains to borrow star power without the risks

Fast food celebrity partnerships McDonald's Popeyes Dunkin'
  • Major fast food chains have embraced celebrity partnerships over the last year.
  • Brands like Dunkin’ and Popeyes can have the excitement of a new menu item without adding complexity.
  • Chains seem isolated from any backlash associated with celebrity partners.

McDonald’s, Dunkin’, Tim Hortons, and other chains keep launching partnerships with celebrities, and analysts say it’s a smart move.

Just this week, McDonald’s launched its Mariah Menu, discounting different classic McDonald’s menu items in December, and Tim Hortons announced it would serve Justin Bieber branded Timbits, called “Timbiebs.” Starbucks also announced plans to sell Taylor Swift’s favorite drink alongside the release of her latest album.

Partnering with celebrities has been a boon to brands. McDonald’s kicked off the trend with the Travis Scott Meal, which was available for a month in the fall of 2020. It was the first in McDonald’s ongoing Famous Orders lineup, consisting of a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, and lettuce, medium fries with BBQ Sauce, and a Sprite – Scott’s favorite meal at the chain.

The brilliance of the promotion was that McDonald’s got all the excitement that typically goes with a limited time offering, alongside the press from a celebrity partnership. But the meal didn’t add any complexity to the kitchen, because it used only ingredients already on the menu.

“Operationally, it’s very smart to take that approach,” Mark Kalinowski, CEO and founder of Kalinowski Equity Research, told Insider. McDonald’s franchisees have pushed for simplified menus, something many major brands adopted in 2020 and into 2021.

The Travis Scott meal was so popular that some locations ran out of Quarter Pounder ingredients. It was also enriching for Scott personally, as he netted at least $20 million from the deal, according to Forbes.

“Everyone saw McDonalds do well, so it’s not surprising to see some other concepts emulate what they did,” Kalinowski said, though not all have been as successful as McDonald’s.

The other important piece of these promotions is “culturally relevant entertainers,” who brands can tap into to attract younger customers, Kalinowski said. For example, Dunkin’ partnered with TikTok star Charli D’Amelio on a drink called “The Charli,” which became its most successful product launch ever.

Some of the celebrities working with fast food brands aren’t necessarily household names to the average McDonald’s or Burger King customer, but Saweetie, Lil Huddy, and Megan Thee Stallion are certainly known to younger, social media-savvy buyers.

“Part of the hope is if you get somebody to be a customer at age 17 or 23, hopefully they’re still a customer at 77 or 83,” Kalinowski said. Brands that use relevant celebrities to appeal to young customers now could potentially be adding lifelong customers without having to invest in any major menu changes.

“You’ve got this outrageous celebrity with no investment in R&D for the product, and the celebrity’s just so much value,” Edward Cotton, a brand consultant who has worked with Chipotle and Jamba Juice, told Vox.

Celebrity partnerships can be hugely profitable for chains, but they also come with risks. Brands partnered with celebrities who behave badly or face bad press can suffer, with Subway’s Jared Fogle as perhaps the most famous example.

Limited time menu offerings don’t seem to carry the same risk for brands, because they come with built-in expiration dates. Travis Scott is currently facing criticism and legal action for the mass casualty event at his Astroworld Festival performance where at least eight died and 300 were injured. None of this bad press is landing on McDonald’s, despite its public partnership with Scott only a year ago. The chain has launched several other Famous Orders in the meantime, effectively protecting it from any scandals associated with Scott or any other celebrities it might partner with.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Some restaurants are closing dining rooms again, but owners blame staffing shortages, not COVID

Chick-fil-A dining room closed
Restaurant chains have had top close dining rooms.

  • Fast-food locations around the country are temporarily closing dining rooms or cutting hours.
  • Owners say that they can’t open dining rooms without enough staff.
  • The restaurant industry has faced a shortage of workers for the last year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Restaurant chains are going through another round of dining room closures, but this time it’s not directly because of COVID-19 infections. Chains are having to adjust hours or only operate drive-thrus as they face a lack of staff to keep restaurants running.

McDonald’s reminded franchisees of guidelines that would allow them to close dining rooms in areas with high rates of infection, and Chick-fil-A is allowing operators to keep them closed through January for safety, but many dining room closures across the country are actually a direct result of the labor shortage.

Three Chick-fil-A restaurants in Alabama had to close their dining rooms over lack of staff, though they continued to make food for delivery.

“We, along with many businesses, are in the middle of a hiring crisis,” the Calera, Alabama Chick-fil-A restaurant said in a Facebook post. A McDonald’s location in North Carolina made a similar move, closing the dining room while keeping the drive-thru running.

Two more Chick-fil-A locations in northern Alabama have started closing early because of “extremely short staffing,” Grace Dean reported for Insider. Two campus Starbucks locations at the University of Alabama temporarily closed dining rooms due to “limited staff and supply chain challenges,” The Crimson White reported.

Staffing issues are a problem across the country. In an August earnings call, Wendy’s president and CEO told investors that some dining rooms were closing early and operating drive-thru only because of a lack of workers.

Dunkin' closing early sign
Restaurants are closing early and shortening hours over worker shortages.

A Dunkin’ location in Colorado temporarily closed operations completely after it was down to only three workers, Zahra Tayeb reported for Insider.

“We’re in a major labor crisis and that is the 100% reason why we’re closed,” Alex Apodaca, chief operating officer at JB Partners, the franchisee, said. “No other reason.” JB Partners closed and reopened two other Colorado locations this year over hiring issues.

At least two Dunkin’ locations in Rochester, New York have also shortened hours, and a location in The Villages in Florida temporarily closed its dining room for several days.

“It’s really tough times for staffing,” Kalinowski Equity founder Mark Kalinowski previously told Insider. Restaurant workers continue to quit the industry at record rates, moving to jobs where they don’t have to interact with angry customers. To ward off potential closures, some operators have gotten creative by recruiting young teen workers and offering sign-on bonuses and hiring incentives.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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A Dunkin’ coffee shop in Colorado is temporarily closing after the number of staff fell from 15 to 3 and it couldn’t find anyone to replace them

Dunkin' Donuts
The Dunkin’ branch has faced a severe hiring crisis.

  • A Dunkin’ branch in Colorado Springs has temporarily closed because it can’t find enough workers.
  • “We’re in a major labor crisis,” said the CEO of a franchisee that manages seven Dunkin’ stores.
  • The store had only three employees on the rota before it closed, The Gazette reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Dunkin’ branch in Colorado Springs is temporarily closing its doors because it is struggling to find workers amid the labor shortage, The Gazette reported.

Alex Apodaca, chief operating officer at JB Partners, an Arizona-based franchisee that manages seven Dunkin’ stores in the area, told the outlet: “We just can’t get people to work.”

The west-side Dunkin’ on Colorado Avenue has been operating for 55 years. The store would usually have 15 employees on its rota. But that fell to three just before the store closed, Apodaca said.

“We’re in a major labor crisis and that is the 100% reason why we’re closed,” he added. “No other reason.”

Dunkin’, which underwent a rebranding in 2018 that changed the store’s name from Dunkin’ Donuts, is not alone in its struggle, however. Other businesses in the US are still grappling with a labor shortage, months after their states cut enhanced jobless benefits.

Ray Sykes, who owns the Italian restaurant Arabellas in Winter Haven, told The Ledger he had to hire workers still at high school who have very little experience, or in some cases, none at all.

In late August, at least three Chick-fil-A restaurants in Alabama closed their dining rooms because they didn’t have enough employees to keep them open. Two more started shutting early “due to extremely short staffing,” Insider’s Grace Dean reported.

In the case of Dunkin’, JB Partners had already closed and reopened at least two of its Springs locations over the past 18 months, due to a hiring crisis.

“That part of town, it’s a little bit more difficult with hiring,” Apodaca told The Gazette. “I guarantee you, if we were two or three miles west, or two or three east, we wouldn’t have the same problem. But for some reason, that pocket is just really difficult to find people that want to work.”

The franchisee hopes to reopen in the coming weeks, according to Apodaca.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Pumpkin spice has ‘jumped the shark’ and brands are betting on apple as the next trendy fall flavor

Starbucks apple crisp macchiato fall menu
Starbucks is launching its fall menu.

  • Starbucks and Dunkin’ are both launching new apple-flavored items this fall.
  • Pumpkin is still the reigning king of fall, and pumpkin spice has spread everywhere.
  • Experts say apple is a way for chains to keep fall menus fresh while keeping the classics.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Pumpkin spice is still the flavor of fall, but apple is an up-and-coming competitor on seasonal menus this year.

Dunkin’ announced a few new apple items, including an apple cranberry refresher and an apple cranberry coconut refresher, and the apple cider doughnut will be back this year, too. Starbucks is also embracing apple this year with the new apple crisp macchiato.

Industry experts told Insider that the two major coffee chains turned to apple flavors at the same time because pumpkin is everywhere, from Kraft mac and cheese to deodorant and Twinkies, a victim of its own success.

“Many feel that pumpkin spice ‘jumped the shark’ so to speak because there is a saturation of pumpkin spice everything,” Kim McLynn at The NPD Group told Insider.

Read more: Business owners are already prepping for holiday shopping madness to avoid shipping delays and supply-chain nightmares

Starbucks introduced the new drink as a natural complement to pumpkin.

“Building on the popularity of pumpkin flavor, Starbucks inspiration for an apple beverage started with the idea of the fall harvest. The new Apple Crisp Macchiato offers customers comfort to the core with layered flavors of apple and brown sugar melding like the filling of a gooey apple pie in harmony with espresso, steamed milk, and a caramelized-spiced apple drizzle for a nostalgic autumn pick-me-up,” Starbucks described the new drink in a statement.

Pumpkin remains highly popular, Mark Kalinowski of Kalinowski Equity Research told Insider. Chains can “introduce it early because it’s so popular,” he said. Dunkin’ and Starbucks each launched their fall menus at their earliest ever dates this year, August 19 and 24, respectively. Pumpkin is “enthusiastically anticipated” each year, he said.

The pumpkin spice latte, or PSL, which kicked of the trend at Starbucks in 2003, is returning for its 18th year. Starbucks says it is one of the chain’s most popular seasonal drinks of all time, with more than 500 million sold. In 2020, the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew outsold the PSL, with 90 million drinks sold last year as cold drinks continue to dominate.

While apple is new to fall coffee menus, Starbucks typically pairs the PSL with something else, like the salted caramel mocha and maple pecan latte. “They don’t want to do the exact same thing every single year,” he said.

Apple is heavily associated with fall, and Starbucks is also emphasizing a nostalgic angle.

“Fall at Starbucks brings customers back to the nostalgic flavors of the season and our team used the inspiration to create a new flavor that celebrates of comfort and familiarity,” Starbucks research and development senior manager Raegen Powell said in a statement.

Before landing on the macchiato, Starbucks tested out other apple-flavored products, including apple maple syrup, apple cider doughnuts, and other pies and cakes.

Workers told Insider that Starbucks stores were stocking up on pumpkin sauce and apple cinnamon syrup ahead of the launch for the new fall menu, anticipating the popularity of the drinks and hopefully avoiding shortages.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Drive-thrus are getting larger and larger with no end in sight

7-Eleven Drive-thru store
7-Eleven Drive-thru store.

  • Taco Bell just announced plans for a four-lane drive-thru slated for summer 2022.
  • Competing chains are already adding lanes to drive-thrus, Taco Bell just upped the ante.
  • Drive-thrus became crucial to fast food during the pandemic, and chains continue to invest in them.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Taco Bell just released plans for a four-lane drive-thru set to open next summer, and it’s making the inevitable clear: drive-thrus are just going to keep getting bigger.

The new drive-thru concept will be owned by one of the biggest Taco Bell franchisees in the country, with three lanes dedicated to mobile orders alongside a fourth, traditional lane. A contactless food delivery system that “defies gravity” will transport orders from the kitchen above down to cars through a lift system.

Taco Bell drive-thru concept
Taco Bell’s new concept is set to open in summer 2022.

The concept immediately inspired memes and comparisons. So far, it’s been compared to an EZ Pass highway toll booth, a bank, and even the color scheme from the Ryan Gosling movie “Drive.” The comparisons are funny, and frankly the drive-thru does look like a bank, but the concept itself is less ridiculous than it seems at first.

Looking back, drive-thrus getting bigger seems inevitable. Back in 2019 fast food brands ramped up a kind of drive-thru arms race; McDonald’s rolled out new technology to decrease wait times, while traditionally drive-thru-less chains like Chipotle ramped up Chipotlanes. At the same time, Starbucks and Dunkin’ were each experimenting with drive-thru pickup for mobile orders.

The pandemic sped everything up. Suddenly drive-thrus weren’t just a way to do business, they were the primary way customers felt safe visiting restaurants amid closed dining rooms and health concerns. Typically, drive-thrus account for 70% of sales at fast-food chains. But in 2020 chains like Wendy’s and McDonald’s said it was closer to 90%.

To accommodate growing drive-thru traffic, they simply had to get. bigger. Chick-fil-A has been opening double-lane drive-thrus across the country. Starbucks has followed this example as part of its initiative to close lower-performing stores and focusing on mobile and drive-thru locations. The coffee chain has started installing double lanes, too.

McDonald's drive-thru review

McDonald’s, which already has some double-lane drive-thrus, also released a concept for on-the-go stores focused on takeout and delivery orders, with extra lanes for customers who ordered through the app. Like the Taco Bell concept, McDonald’s suggested some orders would even be delivered by conveyor belts.

shake shack drive thru

Shake Shack’s design for its first-ever drive-thrus, planned to open sometime in 2022, skips the traditional single lane step altogether. Instead, the burger chain is jumping right into the multi-lane designs that are growing more popular in the industry, with three lanes to accommodate mobile and on-site orders.

“Why not test out something like this? They can learn an awful lot, and maybe this is the way the market will trend in the long run,” Mark Kalinowski, founder of Kalinowski Equity Research, told Insider. “It’s a futuristic way of thinking, and restaurants are getting more willing to be a little different.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and its variants are still ongoing, but many places in the US have attempted to return to normal life. The reign of drive-thrus is nowhere near over, though, as McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Taco Bell all emphasized how crucial they are to business in just the last few weeks.

Americans have rediscovered their love of drive-thrus, and they’re not going back.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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This is how Dunkin’ has changed since it dropped the ‘Donuts’

new dunkin logo cups
It’s just Dunkin’ now.

  • Dunkin’ has revolutionized its image since its name change in 2019.
  • Since then, it has added more premium and non-coffee drinks.
  • Dunkin’ teamed up with social media stars and online brands to grow younger audiences.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Dunkin’ Donuts rebranded to just “Dunkin'” in 2019.

Dunkin' Donuts

Source: Insider

That same year, Dunkin’ moved towards becoming a lifestyle brand. It launched the first Dunkin’ popup shop with holiday items in November.

Dunkin' holiday merch.
Dunkin’ launched a popup shop in 2019.

Source: Dunkin’

Later that same month, Dunkin’ released a candle collab with brand Homesick, an early indicator of the many other brand collabs to come.

Dunkin' Homesick candle
Dunkin’ released a candle with Homesick in 2019 and 2020.

At the end of 2019, Dunkin’ jumped onto the plant-based food craze, rolling out the Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich to thousands of stores.

Dunkin beyond breakfast sandwich

Source: Insider

Dunkin’ was also majorly investing in its drive-thrus around this time.

dunkin donuts covid drive thru mask
A Dunkin’ worker hands a coffee out of a drive-thru window wearing gloves and a mask as the Coronavirus continues to spread on March 17, 2020 in Norwell, Massachusetts.

Dunkin’ grew to have some of the fastest drive-thru times in the industry, winning the category in 2019 for the first time.

DD drive thru

Source: Insider

The drive-thru and mobile orders were clearly priorities for Dunkin’ shortly after the rebrand. The first real “Dunkin'” store in Quincy, Massachusetts, included a two-lane drive-thru, with a traditional lane and a lane for mobile orders.

dunkin store of the future 2791

Source: Insider

In 2020, Dunkin’ started expanding its offerings outside of coffee with the Matcha Latte in February.

Matcha+Dunkin'_6c96379a 5a99 40e4 a8cd 847a1ab6ee55 prv

Source: Dunkin’

That June, that non-coffee drink growth continued with refreshers, which are iced tea drinks with fruit flavoring.

Dunkin' refresher drinks
Dunkin’ introduced refreshers in 2020.

Source: Dunkin’

The plant-based trend continued in August 2020 with the introduction of Planet Oat oat milk.

Dunkin' oat milk oatly
Dunkin’ added oat milk in 2020.

Dunkin’s snack menu expanded in spring and summer 2020 with croissant stuffers, snackin’ bacon, and stuffed bagel minis.

Dunkin' croissant stuffers
Dunkin’ launched snacks in 2020.

Source: Dunkin’

In the fall of 2020, Dunkin’ kept up the lifestyle branding with National Coffee Day merch.

Dunkin national coffee day
Dunkin’ sells National Coffee Day merch.

September 2020 also marked the beginning of Dunkin’s partnership with Gen Z TikTok star Charli D’Amelio.

Charli Dunkin' cold brew
Dunkin’ partnered with Charli D’Amelio.

Dunkin’ started selling “The Charli,” a Cold Brew with whole milk, which D’Amelio promoted on TikTok. Dunkin’ also launched a merch line with the social media star.

Charli Dunkin' cold brew
Dunkin’ partnered with Charli D’Amelio.

Dunkin’ grew to over three million followers on TikTok, and the partnership with Charli D’Amelio drove a 57% increase in app downloads and significantly boosted cold brew sales.

Dunkin and Charli D'Amelio

Source: Insider

All of these partnerships combined to make Dunkin’ the fast food king of social media.

Dunkin' Customizable Merch

Source: Insider

In 2021, Dunkin’ continued to invest in cold brew and more premium drinks with the addition of Sweet Cold Foam and Smoked Vanilla flavored syrup.

Dunkin' smoked vanilla cold brew
Dunkin’ introduced smoked vanilla cold brew.

Dunkin’ added avocado toast in February 2021, which analyst Mark Kalinowski pointed to as an example of the brand’s work to appeal to younger customers.

Screen Shot 2021 02 24 at 2.57.12 PM
Dunkin’ announced that avocado toast was added to its menu.

Source:Insider

Another non-dairy milk joined the menu in April 2021 with the addition of coconut refreshers.

Dunkin' coconut refrshers
Dunkin’ launched coconut milk.

More recently, Dunkin’ added popping bubbles inspired by Taiwanese Boba Tea to the menu.

Dunkin' popping bubbles
Dunkin’ added popping bubbles.

“Dropping ‘Donuts’ from the name – obviously was like a shot in the air and letting everyone know that Dunkin’ is different,” Drayton Martin, Dunkin’s vice president of brand stewardship, previously told Business Insider. “And we just keep proving that over and over and over again.”

FILE PHOTO: A Dunkin' store, the first since a rebranding by the Dunkin' Donuts chain, is pictured ahead of its opening in Pasadena, California, U.S., August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
A Dunkin’ store, the first since a rebranding by the Dunkin’ Donuts chain, is pictured ahead of its opening in Pasadena

Source: Insider

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Dunkin’ is embracing trends like Boba, oat milk, and plant-based meat to attract younger customers

Dunkin bag
  • Dunkin’ just added popping bubbles to menus.
  • Bubbles, like oat milk and Beyond Meat, are trendy foods that Dunkin’ embraced early.
  • Experts say this is a clear move to appeal to young customers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dunkin’ just added popping bubbles to menus, and it’s the latest entry into Dunkin’s experimentation with trendy food items.

Bubble tea, the Taiwanese milk tea drink with tapioca pearls, has surged in popularity in the last few years, even leading to a nationwide shortage this spring. Variations on the drink, including popping bubbles like the ones at Dunkin’, are riding the wave of popularity. They’re also now on the menu at Sonic, which is owned by Dunkin’ parent company Inspire Brands.

Dunkin’ has embraced other trendy food and drinks in the past. It added oat milk to stores in the summer of 2020, over six months before Starbucks followed. It jumped onto the plant-based food craze in November 2019, rolling out the Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich to thousands of stores, again months before Starbucks’ Impossible Breakfast Sandwich.

“Dunkin’ has been working hard to bring in a younger demographic,” Mark Kalinowski of Kalinowski Equity Research told Insider. “Part of that is putting things on menu that appeal to younger customers.”

He points to the avocado toast on menus as an example, a dish so associated with millennials that it’s become a meme, and promotions featuring teenage TikTok star Charli D’Amelio.

Kalinowski says that Dunkin’ looks to be making a conscious effort to draw in younger customers, who will ideally be loyal to the brand for years to come. Some competing brands have less of a need to concentrate on attracting young customers because they’ve grown that market over years, he said.

Read more: How Dunkin’ stole Starbucks’ crown as king of social media in 2020 using TikTok stars, purple drinks, and coffee-scented candles

“Dunkin’ is always being inspired by different trends to create new and delicious ways to bring Dunkin’ to our fans. Offering innovative choices to our guests is a key part of our efforts to transform and modernize the brand, and we are proud to stand apart as the brand that democratizes trends and finds new ways to keep Americans running,” Jill Nelson, Vice President of Marketing & Culinary for Dunkin’ told Insider.

“When considering potential new menu items, our focus is on offering our guests authentic, high-quality options that first and foremost taste great. Our guests have made it clear that they appreciate that we offer such a wide variety of choices for customizing their beverages, which has encouraged us to continue to introduce ways to personalize and plus-up their favorite drinks. For example, we have introduced dairy alternatives like oat milk, and a non-coffee product Popping Bubbles, small flavored bubbles that can be added to any Dunkin’ iced or frozen beverage,” Nelson told Insider about the chain’s process for updating menus.

Dunkin’ is privately held and does not release quarterly financial results, but Kalinowski says he believe Dunkin’ is likely benefitting from the resurgence in sales across the restaurant industry right now.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Fast food has gotten way more expensive in the last year

McDonald's
  • Fast food prices are rising across the industry.
  • Dunkin’, McDonald’s, and Taco Bell have seen the biggest increases, according to analysts.
  • Shipping issues, labor shortages, and weather events all contribute to rising prices.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Prices at fast-food chains will continue to rise as ingredients and labor grow more expensive.

Chipotle raised prices across the menu by about 4% in June, a move the company says was prompted by increased wages for workers.

The average Chipotle meal will cost 30 to 40 cents more than it did before, and a spokesperson told Insider that the price hike will compensate for the recent wage increases for workers. In April, the fast-casual chain said it would raise average hourly wages to $15 per hour by the end of June, an increase of $2 over the $13 an hour average pay.

Nearly every fast food and fast-casual chain will likely follow, according to analysts at Gordon Haskett in a report released Thursday.

Read more: Kraft Heinz employees and analysts say 3G Capital’s cost-cutting business strategy is setting it up for failure. Here’s how the private equity firm’s playbook left it playing catchup to its rivals.

Analysts looked at 24 restaurant chains over the span of a year and found 17 of them are currently running price increases, and price increases, on the whole, are growing in both size and frequency. Quick service restaurants have seen the largest increases, averaging 6% compared to 3% at fast-casual and 1% in casual chains. Most of these increases have been implemented since March 2021.

Based on Gordon Haskett analysis, the greatest price increases have been 10% at Taco Bell, 8% at McDonald’s, and 8% at Dunkin’, follow by Chipotle and The Cheesecake Factory. Exact prices vary by market. Applebee’s, Papa John’s, Red Robin, and a few others have not adopted any price increases over the past year.

Labor costs are partially the cause of these rising prices. A truck driver shortage is making transportation more expensive, while restaurants, grocery stores, and factories are all struggling to keep fully staffed. Processing plants and farms are facing the same problems, for example, chicken farms don’t have enough employees, so they’re struggling to process birds quickly.

Labor costs might have increased for restaurants over the last year, but so did the price of ingredients. US consumer prices hit their highest level in 13 years in May, increasing 5% over the previous year. Staple Chipotle items, like corn and avocados, grew more expensive this year as demand rose and shipping delays drove prices further up. Experts say rising food costs are a combination of growing demand as consumers increase spending and supply chain struggles. Shipping delays and severe weather events have made crucial commodities more expensive and difficult to obtain.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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A new analyst report suggests Dunkin’ is discontinuing its fan-favorite Beyond Meat sandwich, but the chain says it’s still available in 10 states

Dunkin beyond breakfast sandwich
  • Dunkin’ says it isn’t discontinuing Beyond sandwiches, though they are not available in every store.
  • The Beyond breakfast sandwich was launched in 2019.
  • Fans are angry about losing their favorite sandwich.
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Dunkin says it has not discontinued the Beyond Breakfast Sandwich, despite a report from JP Morgan analysts.

The analyst note says that the offering is no longer on menus at stores analysts called. It no longer appears on the website or in-app menus. At least 9,000 Dunkin’ locations were previously carrying the sandwich, analysts said.

Dunkin’ says it is continuing to work with Beyond Meat, though the sandwich is not available in many parts of the US.

“We maintain a strong relationship with Beyond Meat and will continue to work together to explore innovative plant-based options to meet consumer demand for plant-based menu items,” Michelle King, Dunkin’s head of corporate communications, told Insider. “The Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich continues to be available at several hundred Dunkin’ restaurants throughout the country including in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Hawaii, Utah, Kansas, and Wyoming.”

Dunkin’ first launched the sandwich in 2019, and at the time it was the biggest ever launch of a plant-based meat product by a major restaurant chain. The sandwich consisted of a Beyond Meat breakfast patty, American cheese, and an egg on an English muffin.

Fans of the sandwich are expressing their anger and sadness at not being able to get the sandwich.

Both Dunkin’ and Beyond heavily promoted the partnership when it launched.

“We are extremely proud of our partnership with Beyond Meat and thrilled to be the first U.S. quick-service restaurant to offer Beyond Breakfast Sausage nationwide. Dunkin’ is the brand that democratizes trends for America, and this latest addition to our menu gives consumers more choice to meet their evolving needs,” Dunkin’ CEO Dave Hoffmann said at the time.

Early sales looked promising. Testing went so well that Dunkin’ moved the launch from January 2020 to November 2019. During a trial run in Manhattan, the sandwich quickly became the second best selling from the menu, Irene Jiang reported for Insider.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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