In today's Weekly Media Mix, trendy foods' life span, plus the best burgers around the world
The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.
Chefs and Personalities
Chef Brandon Jew, formerly of Bar Agricole, is heading up a new Chinese food concept in San Francisco, hoping to serve up "the cleanest, purest Chinese food that I can." [Zagat]
And here is Drew Barrymore, eating and drinking with Eric Ripert. The silver fox is getting all the celebs. [YouTube/Reserve Channel]
Andrew Carmellini gets interviewed by Rachel Small for Interview magazine. [Interview]
Check out some chefs' favorite burgers around the world. But, where is Kuma's? [Eater]
In an effort to increase transparency, Chick-fil-A will be offering immediate behind-the-counter tours at its 1,700 locations if anyone asks. [AdAge]
Free food is always a good thing, especially at a bar, or before you start drinking. We speak from experience. [CNN]
Given the death of the cupcake, what trendy foods are still around? Kale is winning, obviously, while acai is long gone. [BuzzFeed]
Discontinued Fast Food Items You Can Still Order
It doesn't matter what your fast food joint of choice is, chances are pretty good that you have your favorite things to order off the menu. When those favorite items disappear, it can catch you off guard, and it's completely heartbreaking. And they do disappear, with a surprising frequency. Menus get updated and overhauled, items that show lagging sales are replaced with something new, and sometimes, it's your favorites that find themselves on the chopping block.
In some cases, all is not lost and there's actually something you can do about it (aside from starting an online petition to bring something back). Sometimes, you can still order your favorites even though they've disappeared from the menu. It takes a little creativity, some menu hacking, and a very, very patient employee or two, but it could be totally worth it. Pro tip? Just remember to be extra-nice to the person behind the counter, because you're asking them to do something well out of the ordinary, and don't do this through the drive-thru, for the sake of anyone lining up behind you. Exciting, right?
Review: You Probably Shouldn’t Eat at Chick-fil-A
People love Chick-fil-A, the poultry-centric fast-food chain whose corporate purpose is to “glorify God,” and whose strict Sunday closure means that every employee gets at least one day of rest.
People love the carnival-like waffle fries, the neonatal ward-like hospitality, the cleanliness on par with a Silicon Valley chip manufacturer, the fresh-squeezed lemonade spiked with soft-serve ice cream, the aromatic peach shakes, the admirably bare-bones fried-chicken sandwich, the viral fan song set to the tune of the Beatles’s “Yesterday,” and the famous Polynesian sauce, an agrodolce condiment that looks like what would happen if a stop sign were melted down in a magical volcano made of pineapple, ginger, and corn syrup.
People don’t love Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based, family-owned chain that’s heavily rooted in the South but that’s expanding aggressively into new markets like New York and Washington, fueling long lines and, occasionally, opposition. Millions of dollars of the chain’s past profits funded groups that opposed same-sex marriage during an era when millions of Americans were fighting for their civil rights smaller donations went to a group that practiced conversion therapy, a practice that stems from the discredited belief that homosexuality is a mental illness.
About a year before the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, chief executive Dan Cathy said that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” Following an uproar over those comments, Chick-fil-A pledged, on Facebook, to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena, and “to treat everyone “with honor, dignity and respect,” regardless of sexual orientation.
This is all to say, reckoning with Chick-fil-A is complicated. There’s the social question, which is how a Biblically grounded institution — whose $8 billion in sales dwarf KFC’s domestic operations — will fare as it expands outside of regions where it’s perceived as a beloved community cornerstone, rather than a venue whose mere presence evokes the type of anger normally directed at unqualified politicians.
And there’s the culinary question, which is whether you should brave the (fast-moving) lines at the home of the “original” pressure-fried chicken sandwich, or whether you should patronize more ambitious (and progressive) poultry-purveying peers like Fuku (only in New York) or Shake Shack.
I used to visit the Chick-fil-A during my D.C. college days, circa 2000, as a cheap and reasonably tasty source of protein after a workout. Nearly two decades later, in my capacity as a restaurant critic, I’m here to report that the increasingly ubiquitous chain serves a pretty good fast-food breakfast, a pretty great frozen coffee, and a pretty average chicken sandwich.
I’m also here to report that it’s the only top 10 quick-service restaurant that doesn’t mention sexual orientation in its online equal opportunity statement, and that it holds a zero rating on LGBT benefits and worker protections from a prominent advocacy group. McDonald’s scored 100. (When I asked Chick-fil-A about this, a rep responded with a general statement reaffirming its commitment to equal opportunity and said that it’s up to local franchisees to determine benefits.)
New York City's first standalone location of Chick-fil-A opened nearly two years ago to small protests and heavy lines. The chain plans on opening about a dozen restaurants across the five boroughs in the next three years, and it’s hard to blame it the three locations I visited for this review continue to attract the type of fervent lunchtime crowds one might’ve expected during the early days at Momofuku Noodle Bar.
Chick-fil-A’s draw is simplicity: It’s all about the chicken. There are no burgers, hot dogs, tacos, cakes, hand pies, or lunchtime burritos — unless you count the 1990s-style wrap sandwich. There isn’t any beef, and the only pork is relegated to a bit of breakfast sausage or bacon.
That simplicity extends to the chicken sandwich, which is largely free from adulterants. The larger fast-food industry, which has no problem selling Froot Loop shakes and other things that will turn our livers into foie gras, generally abides by the false assumption that America wants a crummy house salad — watery lettuce, out-of-season tomatoes, and a chokehold of mayo — on its chicken sandwiches. Chick-fil-A knows better: The classic sandwich is nothing more than chicken, pickles (always on the bottom, so your tongue is instantly zapped with acidity), a white bun that gets out of the way of the chicken, butter, sugar, and enough salt — 1,350 milligrams — to turn your duodenum into charcuterie.
Structurally, it’s tempting to call it the platonic ideal of the chicken sandwich. It doesn’t exist to highlight infinite trendy toppings or revel in assembly-line customization, a la Chipotle. It exists to show off chicken. Until you start eating it. And you realize it’s not showing off much at all.
The only chicken at Chick-fil-A is boneless, skinless breast meat. While some parts of the culinary world explore how to extract more nose-to-tail goodness from poultry, or at least find a way to make sure your white meat doesn’t taste like seitan, the country’s most prominent chicken chain is focusing on the part of the chicken that bores, and that, in the hands of the corporate chefs here, really doesn’t taste like a whole lot.
To be fair, not a lot of folks turn to fast-food chicken expecting an epicurean inquiry into poultry funk or arcane breeding. People eat fast-food chicken for salt, fat, and perhaps most importantly, crunch. Problem is, Chick-fil-A’s chicken has too much salt, not enough fat, and very little crunch. The chief flavors of the sandwich are industrial neon pickle, sugar, and peanut oil.
If we lived in a post-apocalyptic world where Chick-fil-A was the only restaurant chain and all the remaining medical centers still had world-class dialysis machines, maybe this would suffice. But walk into any Shake Shack and your chicken sandwich will shatter with eons more crunch. It’s enough to make you want to forgive the mayo. Swing by a Fuku, whose lean butter- and pickle-topped sandwich is heavily influenced by Chick-fil-A, and you’ll experience an incendiary thigh meat with tons more flavor and texture. Heck, even drop by McDonald’s, order the buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich, hold the tomato, and you’ll still have a chicken sandwich with more texture and less sodium shock. The state of fast-food chicken sandwiches is strong, and The Chick just isn’t at the top of the list anymore.
Chick-fil-A, alas, doesn’t have much to worry about financially it’s currently America’s favorite fast-food restaurant, according to one consumer satisfaction index. Sales actually soared the year Cathy made his controversial remarks. That means we can all expect more mayo-free chicken sandwiches across our fruited plain. So when you find yourself at Chick-fil-A, by choice or by chance, here’s a rundown of what’s great, what’s good, and what other prominent chains do better.
First, the two best dishes
Chick-n-Minis (aka mini chicken sandwiches, breakfast only): These nuggets stuffed into mini yeast rolls aren’t a pretty dish the craggy bits of breaded chicken are halfway falling out of the undersized rolls, some of which are nearly broken by the time you pick them up. If you saw these at a hot buffet you’d hop into your car and find another hot buffet. So be it the rolls, brushed with honey butter, are chain’s best foil for its salt-lick chicken. This is a dish that doesn’t try to be something better than it is it basks in the baseness of its own junk-food turpitude. Rating: 9/10. Calories: 350. Fat: 14g. Sodium: 880mg.
Hash browns (breakfast only): Outside of a diner, hash browns normally come in two shapes: cylindrical, in the form of a tater tot, or rectangular, like a small deck of cards. Chick-fil-A chooses to ignore convention and form their morning potatoes into tiny round discs. They are hash browns pretending to be chicken nuggets, and they back masterful levels of salt, crunch, and earthiness. They need no ketchup. Rating: 9/10. Calories: 240. Fat:16g. Sodium: 390mg.
Chicken biscuit: This is a dish that describes itself and tastes like it sounds, except for the fact it’s entirely more salty, less crispy, and less delicious than you might imagine. But add a packet of honey, a spot of hot sauce, and a wicked hangover, and you’re in pretty good shape until the next highway rest stop. Rating: 8/10. Calories: 450. Fat: 21g. Sodium: 1310mg.
Sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit: It’s just like the McDonald’s version, but with fluffier eggs, a more crumbly biscuit, and a sausage that doesn’t reek of pine oil. Or put more simply, it’s like the McDonald’s version, except it tastes good. Rating: 8.5/10. Calories: 600. Fat: 40g. Sodium: 1520mg.
Bacon, egg, and cheese on a muffin: Another attempt at taking on McD’s breakfast supremacy, but with less success, thanks to a dry muffin. What this sandwich needs is butter. Rating: 5/10. Calories: 300. Fat: 12g.
Chicken, egg, and cheese bagel: The sandwich features fluffier scrambled eggs than at McDonald’s and a passable crispy chicken breast. But here’s the thing: This isn’t a bagel, the baked and boiled masterpiece that’s a triumph of the New York culinary world this tastes more like what would happen if a contestant on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen used a cookie cutter to form a bagel out of a day-old loaf of bread. F-bombs ensue. Rating: 4/10. Calories: 480. Fat: 18g. Sodium: 1310mg.
Lunch and dinner
Spicy chicken sandwich: This rust-colored patty infused with spicy peppers has enough sodium (1,650 milligrams) to turn your bathtub into the Dead Sea. Expect the same soft texture as the regular sandwich but with a level of heat that rises briefly to a midlevel intensity and then vanishes, the spice equivalent of a summertime PG-13 thriller. So, more Twister than Alien: Covenant. I kind of like it. Rating: 7/10. Calories: 450. Fat: 19g. Sodium: 1620mg.
Waffle potato fries: Introducing one of the few french fries to ever trigger my gag reflex: The color here is more wan than golden these are frites in need of a Caribbean vacation. The texture is crispy when hot but quickly becomes chewy and almost rubbery. The flavor is off, too, because the fries are consistently undersalted. And the worst part happens when you chew: The exterior yields to a gritty, mealy interior, evoking a poorly cooked steak fry. Eating one of these pommes gaufrettes imparts a distinct sense of nostalgia for better, more expertly seasoned waffle fries at bowling alleys across the country. Rating: 3/10. Calories: 360. Fat: 24g. Sodium: 170mg.
Chicken sandwich: Nothing fancy here, just a plain pressure-fried chicken sandwich. Sometimes, on a good day, it smells like chicken. The flimsy white bun, tenderized meat, soft crust (with a few gently crispy edges), and floppy cukes combine forces to create about as much textural contrast as a peanut-butter sandwich. An Atlanta friend tells me the fried chicken isn’t really supposed to be crunchy, which might be true, but that makes as much sense as saying a cup of Jell-O shouldn’t jiggle. Rating: 6/10. Calories: 440. Fat: 19g. Sodium: 1350mg.
Chicken nuggets: I almost disqualified these from my chicken nugget roundup because they are closer to a small tender than a true chopped and formed patty. But my taxonomical chop-busting notwithstanding, the Chick-fil-A nugs exhibit a clean, sweet savoriness with a more impressive crunch and chew than the traditional sandwich. If only Chick-fil-A were willing to make a fattier, more sausage-like creation. Rating: 7/10. Calories: 260. Fat: 12g. Sodium: 980mg.
On Hospitality and Humanity
Chick-fil-A deserves credit for its labor practices (it boasts the lowest rate of wage violations in the industry) its generous philanthropy, which now largely focuses on youth and education ($9 million in scholarships for team members this year) as well as its LGBTQ outreach efforts at the franchise level. But none of that detracts from the following: A billion-dollar company whose foundation spent a small fortune funding groups that oppose equal rights for marginalized and bullied people can’t expect their restaurants to feel like truly hospitable places if it can’t even mention those marginalized and bullied people on its website’s equal opportunity statement.
A sense of welcomeness for all can be tough to divine when the corporate parent of your local fast-food outlet continues to donate millions to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a sports ministry that asks its volunteers to check an online box and agree that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman, and whose local chapters require camp staffers and student leaders to pledge they won’t engage in homosexual acts, described as a “sin.”
In case you’d like to know what your order of nuggets is implicitly endorsing.
I don’t mention this to dispute Chick-fil-A’s constitutional right to free speech. I mention this because it will take a lot more than a smile and a chicken sandwich, quite frankly, to convince people who don’t want to dine or work there that the chain is a positive addition to the community, rather than one whose mere presence, if only prospective, symbolizes exclusion and inspires protest.
Chicken strips: Chick-fil-A brazenly seasons its strips differently than its nuggets. A reading of the online ingredients shows that the strip batter includes tomato powder, garlic powder, chicken fat, molasses, and sugarcane syrup. This results in a slightly more complex flavor than the nuggets, though the tenders are less juicy. To each her own. Rating: 7/10. Calories: 350. Fat: 17g. Sodium: 940mg.
Spicy Southwest salad: With crisp lettuce, sweet corn, and spicy chicken chilled to such a degree that it is nearly unidentifiable as animal protein, this salad comes with more tableside flourishes than a three Michelin-starred restaurant. You rip open a plastic bag of chipotle dressing to drench the lettuce in tart buttermilk. Then you rip open another plastic bag to season the salad with cumin-laced pepitas. Then you open up a third plastic sachet to shower the affair with lime-spiked tortilla chips (as sour as Warheads candies). And finally you open up a fourth plastic bag to retrieve the fork and start eating it out of the two-part plastic container in which everything is contained. It’s all a startling balance of flavor for a fast-food salad, but really, it’s a ton of waste. Rating: 6/10. Calories: 290 Fat: 8g. Sodium: 970mg.
Grilled nuggets: Even juicier than the proper breast they actually sit in a pool of the delicious seasoning juice. With all the preservative sodium, I suppose these would make great MREs for soldiers around the world, and maybe I’d order them myself as a substitute for a whey protein shake after the gym. Rating: 6/10. Calories: 140. Fat: 3.5g. Sodium: 440mg.
Grilled chicken sandwich: This ranks with the grilled nuggets as the juiciest items at Chick-fil-A. The secret is the seasoning, which includes apple cider vinegar, sea salt, chicken fat, smoke flavor, lemon peel, red bell pepper, and — bet you wouldn’t guess this — orange juice and grape juice. So far, so good. But the bad news is that this masterpiece of moistness comes with a multigrain bun, lettuce, and tomato. Grilled food shouldn’t mean spa food. Rating: 5.5/10. Calories: 310. Fat: 6g. Sodium: 820mg.
Spicy deluxe sandwich: It’s similar to the regular crispy chicken sandwich, but you’re paying more for the watery tomato you don’t want, the lettuce you don’t need, and the slice of pepper jack cheese you really can’t taste. Rating: 5/10. Calories: 540. Fat: 25g. Sodium: 1760mg.
Chicken salad sandwich: It’s just like any other version of this mayonnaise-y lunch staple, except with a combination of spices and pickle relish that make it taste like cake frosting. Rating: 3/10. Calories: 500. Fat: 21g. Sodium: 1090mg.
Chicken noodle soup: Basically a bowl of mushy vegetables floating in hot, saline cornstarch broth, this makes a bag of Lipton dehydrated chicken soup seem gourmet by comparison. Rating: 2/10. Calories: 130. Fat: 2.5g. Sodium: 1040mg.
Superfood side salad: Basically chopped broccolini and kale blended with maple vinaigrette and dried cherries, this salad tastes like cellophane marinated in Sweet’N Low syrup. Rating: 1/10. Calories: 190. Fat: 9g. Sodium: 250mg.
. and finally, a quick, unrated look at drinks and dessert
Icedream cone: A cool, milky, low-fat dairy product laced with so much carrageenan and guar gum that you can order one, let it sit, eat your entire lunch, and it still won’t have dripped 10 minutes later. Calories: 260. Fat: 6g. Sugar: 38g.
Frosted coffee: Chick-fil-A’s answer to the Dunkin’ Donuts frozen iced coffee or the Starbucks Frappuccino. With respect to both of those chains, Chick-fil-A’s version is smoother, with less leftover slush at the end, thanks to a shot of Icedream blended in. This is the correct pairing for the chicken mini breakfast sandwiches. Calories: 240. Fat: 6g. Sugar: 38g.
Lemonade: Freshly squeezed on premises and laced with more sugar than a soda pop. The scent is intoxicating the flavor, cloying. Mix it with iced tea, Arnold Palmer-style, for a more balanced beverage. Calories: 220. Fat: 0g. Sugar: 55g.
Frosted lemonade: A misnomer of sorts. Sounds like a cold slushie, but turns out to be too much Icedream blended with too little lemonade. It tastes nothing like citrus and everything like the beverage’s sugar content, which is 63 grams. Calories: 330. Fat: 6g. Sugar: 63g.
Iced tea: Sweetened to that sweet spot where it’s palate-achingly undrinkable. Threw it out after two sips. Calories: 120. Fat: 0g. Sugars: 30g.
Strawberry milkshake: Drinkable through a straw without inducing a stroke, which will automatically disqualify it for those who prefer to consume milkshakes with a spoon. Also, it tastes like actual strawberries. Not bad! Calories: 570. Fat: 21g. Sugar: 77g.
Peach milkshake: Like sucking a can of over-sweetened Dole canned peaches through a straw. Nasty stuff. Calories: 630. Fat: 0g. Sugar: 0g
Ranking America’s Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets
Taco Bell’s Breakfast Menu, Ranked
Ryan Sutton is Eater NY’s chief critic and data lead. Jenny Zhang is Eater’s newsletter editor.
Editor: Erin DeJesus
Special thanks to Sonia Chopra and Matt Buchanan
Chick-fil-A boosts sales per unit, despite being closed on Sunday
Restaurant customers have followed the gilded ad slogan of “Eat Mor Chikin” and vaulted Chick-fil-A Inc. again into the Top 200 rankings of fastest-growing restaurant brands in the 2019 Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 200.
The Atlanta-based chicken-and-two-pickle chain ranked No. 3 in U.S. chain systemwide sales, just behind McDonald's and Starbucks. The chain rose four spots from No. 7, edging out Subway, Taco Bell, Burger King and Wendy’s in Latest-Year rankings.
Systemwide U.S. sales were up 16.7% in the Latest Year ended in December 2018, reaching $10.5 billion. That was up from $9 billion in the Preceding Year and $7.9 billion in the Prior Year. Sales grew 13.7% in the Preceding Year and 16.9% in the Prior Year as well.
Chick-fil-A ranked No. 12 in Latest Year sales growth, posting a fifth year of double-digit sales growth gains.
Chick-fil-A’s U.S. sales gain of nearly $1.5 billion in the Latest Year was more than the net sales gain of leading chains nearly twice its size.
The sales were impressive for a 55-year-old brand, which Truett Cathy founded as a mall food court concept. The first freestanding Chick-fil-A opened in 1986, also in Atlanta, and the brand tapped the Holstein cows with the “Eat Mor Chikin” message in 1995.
Chick-fil-A has been on a growth trajectory ever since.
The brand ended its Latest Year with 2,363 domestic units, up 5.8% from 2,234 in the Preceding Year.
Despite being closed on Sundays, Chick-fil-A’s Estimated Sales Per Unit hit $4.6 million, up 9.6% from $4.2 million in the Preceding Year.
Chick-fil-A has not been resting on its laurels or toasted butter buns.
In October 2018, the company debuted the first of two test units focusedsolely on catering, delivery and carryout, forgoing counter-ordering entirely.
“New test locations in Nashville and Louisville have no dining rooms but focus on catering and delivery,” the company said, citing the need to meet “a growing demand for food to go.”
Those test units serve as hubs for catering and delivery, and the Nashville restaurant was opened as a cashless location, taking only credit and debit cards for payment even from walk-in customers.
Dovetailing with those units, Chick-fil-A also last August tested meal kits at 150 of its Atlanta-area units.
The “Mealtime Kits,” initially available only in restaurants at the chicken chain’s Atlanta hometown market, featured pre-measured ingredients, which yielded a full meal within 30 minutes were priced at $15.89.
“We know our guests are busier than ever and need a variety of convenient dinner options,” said Michael Patrick, who oversees Chick-fil-A’s innovation and new ventures, in a statement. “We’re excited to offer Mealtime Kits as a new way for us to serve our guests by providing fresh ingredients to enjoy a delicious meal at home.”
The test included a rotating menu of five meal-kit recipes: chicken Parmesan, chicken enchiladas, Dijon chicken, pan-roasted chicken and chicken flatbread. Two of the five recipes were available at a given time.
Setting its sights beyond the domestic market, Chick-fil-A also last July announced it was making its first franchise push outside the U.S., seeking restaurant partners in Toronto, Canada.
NRN’s 2019 Top 200 is based on reported and estimated results for fiscal years ended from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019.
You might have seen people walking around in cow costumes at the mall and wondered what kind of strange convention was in town. Most likely, it was just Cow Appreciation Day. Every year in mid-July, the chain chooses a day and declares it a holiday, giving out free food to those partaking with a costume. Although a full-on cow onesie shows you're really invested, a T-shirt illustrated with udders works as well.
Chick-fil-A Just Launched a Brand-New Chicken Sandwich
The Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich is what summer dreams are made of.
Summer is almost here, and we couldn't be more excited to welcome the season with open arms. But before you pull your grill out of the garage, you can get a taste of that backyard barbecue flavor you're craving with Chick-fil-A's brand-new chicken sandwich&mdashthe popular fast food chain's first-ever seasonal entrée.
Chick-fil-A recently announced the launch of the Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich, a limited-edition offering that includes brown sugar-glazed bacon, Colby Jack cheese, lettuce, and a smokehouse BBQ sauce tucked in between Hawaiian-style buns.
The seasonal sandwich also comes with a new drink offering, too: Watermelon Mint Lemonade, which certainly sounds like the perfect way to beat the heat during the dog days of summer.
Both seasonal items are currently available nationwide through August 19, 2017.
Chick-fil-A has an integrated consumer-focused strategy that relies heavily on great tasting, high-quality products, and a family-friendly, values-centered environment.
The brand integrates its customer communication whenever possible. From the Chick-fil-A One app, which tracks purchase activity and puts feedback at your fingertips, to receipt surveys and a very active social media presence, Chick-fil-A is in touch with its customers on multiple channels. But all of their outreach isn’t through the point of sale or technology. Operators are often on site, and if not behind the counter serving customers, will walk around and check on patrons. Regardless of method, Chick-fil-A is quick to respond to customer satisfaction stories and complaints, not by some autonomous staffer in a corporate office, but often by the operator at your local store. And customer interactions with the operators aren’t limited to the store. It is quite likely that they are at your church, on the ball field or involved in local civic activities.
That close connection with its patrons helps Chick-fil-A operators, and the corporate office behind them, understand their customers. They personally respond to feedback, try new recipes in various test markets, and stay closely linked to the issues that mean the most to their target consumers.
Without fail, they always treat their customers well. “My pleasure” isn’t just an automated phrase, it appears to be a heartfelt response to any customer thanks. Employees appear to enjoy their job and value the opportunity to serve others. That positive treatment of its customer base, wherever they interact with the brand, goes a long way to support the family-friendly, values-centered store image of this fast food service chain.
And because of the quality food and high-quality interactions I have always had with the company, I am a brand evangelist. I believe in the product, am willing to spend my family’s time and treasure in their restaurants, and will recommend them to others. I am just one of their raving fans.
Chick-fil-A tests meal kits as first US fast food chain to take on Blue Apron
As the competition among meal kit companies such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh heats up online and expands sales into supermarkets, Chick-fil-A is offering customers yet another alternative.
Known for its antibiotic-free chicken, the company is the first major U.S. fast food chain to launch its own line of fresh prepared meals for diners on the go who want more than just its signature chicken fingers. Chick-fil-A will sell its "Mealtime Kits" at 150 restaurants in and around its headquarters in Atlanta starting Aug. 27. These kits contain pre-measured ingredients and can be picked up from the drive-thru, front counter or ordered through the Chick-fil-A One app.
“We know our guests are busier than ever and need a variety of convenient dinner options," Michael Patrick, an innovation program lead at Chick-fil-A who is leading the Mealtime Kits launch, said in a statement. "We’re excited to offer Mealtime Kits as a new way for us to serve our guests by providing fresh ingredients to enjoy a delicious meal at home.”
Chick-fil-A is offering five different recipes that aren't sold in its restaurants, chicken parmesan, chicken enchiladas, dijon chicken, pan roasted chicken and chicken flatbread, all featuring the company's antibiotic-free chicken. Each kit serves two people and costs $15.89.
Patrick said that the meal kits were designed so that customers do not have to subscribe to get their meals or order ahead.
Chick-fil-A enters that space at a tumultuous time. The meal kit sector is rapidly changing, with many competitors selling their meals online and partnering with grocery and drug store chains to sell to customers who don't want weekly subscriptions.
Blue Apron partnered with Costco to test its kits at 15 locations, while Walmart has developed its own pre-portioned kits in-house. Even Weight Watchers announced plans in March to sell kits in stores later this year.
And then there are the grocery chains that have been scooping up meal kit companies. Kroger bought Home Chef in a deal worth $200 million. In June, HelloFresh said it would sell kits at Stop & Shop and Ahold Delhaize's Giant Food.
However, the industry is also shrinking. Between acquisitions and financial difficulties causing brands to shutter, the space has dwindled to around a dozen major national companies and a smattering of regional players. Most recently, Chef’d, a national meal-kit company, suspended its operations after burning through investments and failing to secure more cash.
Chick-fil-A will just be testing its kits until November while it gauges consumer interest before rolling it out to other locations.
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OLATHE, Kan. — The Johnson County Extension Master Gardener Public Garden Tour will return this year after being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The tour will be May 21-22 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Each tour highlights five private gardens owned and maintained by Master Gardeners throughout the county.
“It’s for novices to pros to just to people who want to get out and start to feel like life is normal again,” Johnson County Extension Horticulture Agent Dennis Patton said. “We try to find gardens that represent all the different facets of gardening, because your style, my style might be different. “
Geri Padley’s garden is one of the stops on the tour. Padley started working on her garden when she and her husband moved into their home nine years ago. The garden includes a stone waterfall, handmade stepping stones, a variety of perennial flowers and a pond backdrop.
“It’s so tranquil to be back here. It’s kind of like you’re on vacation at home,” Padley said.
To get the garden ready for the tour, Padley said volunteers from the Extension have been working for weeks to make the property look its best.
“We usually have about 20 volunteers that will work every Tuesday that will bring this to look this good to be on the tour,”Padley said.
Guests will be encouraged to wear a mask and keep their distance throughout the tour.Each garden will have volunteer stations around the property to answer questions and offer advice.
“What we are trying to do is showcase a little bit of everything about landscaping, outdoors. Part of Extension is we are all about education. We are going to have volunteers there answering questions on How do you garden? What’s this plant? How do you get it to do this? Those types of things,” Patton said.
Cindy Bergmann’s garden is listed on the tour as ‘Woodland Possibilities’. Bergmann’s landscape features an expansive bed of shade-loving plants like hostas, vibrant flowers and pops of tropical plants like psalm.
“We’re going to put tags around so that hopefully the ones that we think are really interesting they take a picture of and they try it in their own home. They see something that they really like and they get inspired,” Bergmann said.
Ticket sales will support the Extension Master Gardener program, including college scholarships to Kansas State University and Johnson County Community College. You can find more information on how to purchase tickets here .
Family meal bundles get a boost from curbside pickup
The pandemic has encouraged—if not forced—restaurant operators to flex their ingenuity. As takeout and delivery orders slid in as an alternative option when dining rooms closed, operators quickly reworked their menus to meet consumers’ unique needs, including family meal package options. With 66% of consumers saying they anticipate continuing to use curbside pickup even after dine-in services resume, according to Technomic’s 2020 Delivery and Takeout Consumer Trend Report, restaurants are wise to continue offering the options consumers are looking for.
Technomic’s Delivery and Takeout report finds that 27% of consumers who have ordered takeout and delivery during restaurant closures have already purchased or are likely to purchase family meal bundles, and 73% of consumers say that even once restaurants reopen, they would be likely to purchase family meal bundles. Curbside pickup—comprising 50% of all takeout orders, according to Technomic—is the perfect avenue for meal bundles. Busy, tired consumers are looking for a quick way to feed the whole family, and with curbside pickup, they can bring dinner home without ever leaving the car.
Check out how some restaurants have adapted to offering customers convenient, family-style meals:
· Chick-fil-A, a favorite among chicken lovers, is offering meal bundles for four or more people. Customers can choose from three entrée options (a 30-count order of Chick-fil-A Nuggets, four Original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwiches or four Spicy Chicken Sandwiches) five different sizes with portions for four (waffle fries, mac & cheese, waffle potato chips, fruit cups, kale crunch sides or chocolate chunk cookies) and beverages (one gallon of either sweetened iced tea, unsweetened iced tea, regular lemonade or diet lemonade. The chain has also started offering Chicken Parmesan meal kits in select areas. These meal kits feature pre-measured and ready-to-heat ingredients with a six-step recipe card, for a meal that comes together in 25 minutes or less and serves at least two people.
· Fast-casual favorite Panera introduced Family Feast Value Meals—family-sized meals made to feed a family of four, priced to save consumers money. Options include varying combos with sandwiches, soups, salads, sides and more. Sandwich options include Panera signatures, including the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt made with chicken raised without antibiotics.
· Abuelo’s, a casual dining chain with locations in nine states including Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Florida and more, offers Family Feasts on their menu. With portion sizes perfect for feeding two-to-three people or four-to-six people, meals options include enchiladas, fajitas and tacos, made with consumers’ choice of proteins including steak, ground beef and premium, all natural chicken. These meal kits also come with options including chips, refried beans, pico de gallo and guacamole.
To find products and menu inspiration, visit perduefoodservice.com.