The No. 1 foodservice chain will be … Starbucks? Operators continued to hire in December. The NPD Group sees restaurant traffic stalled this year. Prediction is that menu prices will remain high but restaurants will offer deals and promotions. Well known Wall Street analyst Mark Kalinowski predicts that Starbucks will increase its restaurant count by 8.4 percent and same-store sales by +5.0 percent in 2017. Further, he believes some time in the future Starbucks will have the industry’s largest market capitalization, bypassing current leader McDonald’s.
Fresh-baked bagels and "darn good" coffee may be what brought Einstein Bros. to the top of its niche, but the company's focus on product innovation is helping to keep it there. Einstein has positioned its traditional bagel bakery concept as much more than bagels, building a menu of on-trend breakfast, lunch and specialty beverage options that satisfy consumers' lifestyle and nutrition demands.
"The Einstein Bros. Bagels brand has always had a reputation for offering healthy choices," says James O'Reilly, chief concept officer. "Our most recent major initiatives have been the launch of the less than 400 Calorie Menu in 2009 and then the Lighter Side Menu in 2010. The Lighter Side Menu has become permanent in our restaurants and features a number of healthier choices."
Among them are Einstein's Bagel Thins (thinner, lower calorie, lower carb bagels), healthful alternatives to traditional high-fat cream cheese such as hummus, peanut butter and light cream cheese, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and Bagel Thin breakfast and lunch sandwiches.
Beyond its healthy positioning, Einstein Bros. is working to build its lunch and snack business. Lunch customers can choose from a variety of signature sandwiches, salads, paninis, wraps and soups. And snackers can grab Bagel Poppers — small, round bagel nuggets served in a cup — any time to go with a specialty blended beverage or gourmet coffee.
This year, Einstein intends to continue leveraging its bagels, breakfast and healthy innovations and to boost check averages primarily through beverages, catering, modest price increases and additional premium sandwiches. According to its annual report, "We will reinforce our product differentiation in terms of 'Fresh Baked Goodness' combined with quality ingredients and innovation. Initiatives to increase our average check include bundled 'combos' and additional snack items in the breakfast and lunch dayparts, and a repositioning of our coffee offering to include dedicated baristas and specialty coffee."