Retail Refugees


Test Restaurant Locations
September 30, 2010, 10:47 am
Filed under: Market Info | Tags:

Restaurants try out new menu items all of the time, but for diners who want to try the latest hamburger, latte or whatever new concoction that is being sold at their favorite place, finding a restaurant test location can be like going on a treasure hunt.

Many fast-food restaurants often change the locations where they’re testing new products in order to keep the item a secret or target customers from a specific demographic, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food industry consultancy. Restaurant chains also try to find out what consumers would be willing to pay for the new items. There are 14 tiers of pricing in the industry, says Tristano, and companies may want to test a product in all of them — from the priciest market in New York City to the least pricey in Salt Lake City.

Finding New Products Near You

To determine whether a restaurant near you is testing a new product, keep your eyes open for “specials” and other signs that new products are available. Here are some current market tests:

  • Coca-Cola started testing the Freestyle 100-drink soda bar, a touchscreen soda fountain offering ten times as many drink offerings as your typical soda fountain, in Orange County, California in 2009. There are now machines in Georgia, Illinois, Texas and Utah. Check out the Coca-Cola’s Freestyle Facebook page to see where the company will be rolling the machines out next.
  • Starbucks is currently testing Refreshers (cold drinks made from green coffee) in San Diego for a limited time. Also, its Starbucks Reserve coffee, made from “single-origin” coffee beans, is being sold in test markets in metro areas across the country.
  • P.F. Chang’s is testing a new happy hour menu in Kansas City, Mo. If all goes well, the Yum Cha Menu, which includes sushi-style rolls and flatbreads, will also be tested in Scottsdale, Ariz. and other locations.
  • If you’ve seen fish tacos everywhere, you haven’t lost your mind. Many restaurants are adding the popular item and Taco Bell will be testing its own fish taco next year in stores nationwide.
  • McDonald’s and Burger King are both offering more premium-priced products, hoping to attract diners that are willing to spend a little more. McDonald’s is testing a $5 Smokehouse Deluxe hamburger in Ontario, and Burger King has installed higher-end Whopper Bars at locations in Orlando and Miami, Florida, as well as Memphis and New York.
  • Wendy’s is testing Natural Fries with the potato skins still on in several test markets. A manager at a Florida restaurant told Consumerist they’re getting rave reviews.
  • California Pizza Kitchen is testing touchscreen menus that let customers pay at the table. El Pollo Loco is also testing self-serve cash registers in Orange County, Calif.
  • Chipotle is testing a few things in a handful of locations around the country, including a roasted tomato salsa and a “garden blend” of vegan protein in New York, Washington, D.C., Denver, Sacramento and Los Angeles, says Chris Arnold, a spokesman for the Denver-based chain. Chipotle hasn’t changed its menu much in its 17 years of business. The last major menu change, says Arnold, was the addition of a salad, and a meal in a bowl instead of wrapped in a burrito.
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See full article from WalletPop: http://srph.it/bagDpY
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