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KFC Cheetos Sandwich

Restaurant New Products: People like what they already know they like, in a new form.

New products are the life blood to the restaurant business. And the key to new restaurant products is to remember people like what they already know they like in a new form. When Burger King launched “New Ribs” in 2013, did that mean ribs are new? Perhaps they’ve never heard of Famous Dave? No, wait, Dave is Famous, it’s even in the name of the restaurant, so they must have heard of him. So it couldn’t be that the ribs are new. McRib, that was McDonald’s take on the rib, and it was new, too. So they must mean something else.

How about KFC with their Cheetos Chicken Sandwich? Is that new? Cheetos have been around since 1948, and the chicken sandwich dates back to the Earl of Sandwich, probably. “The bread-enclosed convenience food known as the “sandwich” is attributed to John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), a British statesman and notorious profligate and gambler, who is said to be the inventor of this type of food so that he would not have to leave his gaming table to take supper.

Does The Product Fit The Brand?

I hesitate to put a link to the KFC Cheeto sandwich, because the link will be gone soon. If you click the link and it is gone, I told you so. By the look of the photos, I can’t imagine it will be around very long. Also, and this is important when launching a new product: make sure the product fits you brand. The KFC brand is, or was, wholesome, comfort foods for carryout and dine-in based around a Southern chicken dinner. Sort of a fat, white guy steals black heritage. The Cheeto chicken sandwich is not that at all. It’s just gross. I can just here some marketing ‘kid’ saying: “Boy’s are gonna love this! Look how the Dorito thingy worked out for Taco Bell.” Except Taco Bell is a teenage boy’s brand. KFC is not. It’s a middle aged, I’m tired and don’t have time to cook, so I’ll give the kids chicken brand that has been overrun by grocery stores with a better, cheaper product. Plus at the grocery or gas station, I can also get eggs and milk, which we seem to be perpetually out of.

RibsHow about this: the ribs were new to Burger King. How much you wanna bet that’s what they meant? And if you followed the ribs at Burger King, you’ll know it was pretty successful right up until it wasn’t. And now it’s been gone for 6 years. I’ll bet if they ever bring it back it will be NEW! again.

It’s New To You, And A New Form To Them.

The key to a great new introduction is to package what your customers already love in a new form. There are a number of ways to go about this, but for the most part, you need to make sure what you introduce makes sense for your restaurant business and your concept without sacrificing what you’re already selling. It does you absolutely no good to introduce a new item only to have it cannibalize your current success. The idea is to create new success and maintain your current popularity.

Outback Anecdote

Blue Bunny HotOperatorI worked with the fine folks at Wells’ Dairy, Blue Bunny for many years, and they told a story about how they had gone to visit Outback Steakhouse with an idea for a new dessert product. The CEO of Outback at the time came into the meeting and told the group from Blue Bunny before they started their presentation that if they did anything to hurt the Bloomin’ onion business that he would hunt them all down and kill them in the street like dogs. That might be an exaggeration, but the point is: he understood his business was centered not simply on great steaks, but also on the onion that brought in nearly five bucks with every table rotation.

So what’s your onion? What is it that your customers come to you for? If you can’t answer that question first, you’ll want to put off any new product effort until you can.

Mark & Kelly LauxMark and Kelly are a design-engineer team and managing partners of HotOperator. They have been working in the restaurant business since 1989. Either can be contacted through the HotOperator website, or by calling 800-316-3198.

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