MONEY Food & Drink

Here’s Why Starbucks Loves Pumpkin Spice Latte Customers So Much

Pumpkin Spiced Latte
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Coffee shops love you even more than you love that PSL.

Talk about a win-win. If you’ve ever wondered why major coffee outlets like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts make such a big deal about the annual arrival of pumpkin spice this and peppermint mocha that on store menus, new research provides a pretty big clue. These seasonal drinks do double duty, in that they not only boost the frequency of customer visits but also prompt customers to spend more on each “refueling” stop.

According to the industry publication Nation’s Restaurant News, the NPD Group tracked the beverage purchases at an undisclosed “major chain” last fall and winter. Customers who purchased a pumpkin spice latte spent an average of $7.81, compared with an average check of $6.67 for party poopers who ordered non-pumpkin items. There was an even bigger difference between the average check that included a white mocha purchase ($8.37), versus one that did not ($6.84).

What’s more, the NPD also conducted research correlating an increase in the frequency of visits for customers purchasing a popular seasonal shake from another unnamed “major chain” that may or may not be McDonald’s. Fans of these shakes also tended to be among the chain’s best customers. During the two months before the arrival of the seasonal shake, they made an average of 5.7 visits; once the promotional shake was on the menu, visits inched up further. Customers who didn’t purchase the seasonal shake, on the other hand, made an average of 4.7 visits during the two months prior to the limited-time offer, and 4.4 visits while the shake was available on the menu.

“These seasonal beverages have a positive impact on visit frequency,” NPD Group analyst Bonnie Riggs said. “If you can increase visit frequency by one full visit, that’s a lot of volume.”

No wonder, then, that Starbucks tries to make headlines with the announcement of when its Pumpkin Spice Latte will be back on menus (September 8 this year), and that Dunkin’ Donuts has been running a big social media campaign about the August 31 return to the menu of pumpkin-spiced products. For that matter, no wonder coffee chains and fast food franchises are constantly rolling out new limited-time offers and seasonal specialties. These items build excitement and draw in customers—who tend to spend more on each visit.

Read Next: Why McDonald’s May Start Skipping Dividends

TIME subway

This Famous Fast-food Chain Just Turned 50

General Images Of Retail And Tourism Ahead Of India CPI Figures
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A Subway fast food restaurant in India.

But the big day comes amid scandal

Sandwich chain Subway is celebrating its 50th birthday this week, having started with a single location in 1965.

It now has over 44,000 locations around the world, including 27,000 locations in the U.S. alone. CTPost reported that the company has no intention of slowing down any time soon: Subway plans to open 2,800 more locations in the U.S. in 2015.

Don Fertman, the chain’s chief development officer, told the publication that its growth can be chalked up to little complication: “We’re a sandwich shop, first and foremost,” he said. “Other places try to add things, become something that they’re not. We embrace simplicity. There are no grills, there’s no frying.”

Subway was founded by a 17-year-old Fred DeLuca, who wanted a way to pay for his education. With a loan of $1,000, DeLuca and his friend Dr. Peter Buck launched the business, and by 1974 the duo owned and operated 16 submarine sandwich shops throughout Connecticut. Realizing they would not reach their 32 store goal in time, they began franchising, launching the “Subway” brand into a period of remarkable growth which continues to this day.

Earlier this year, Subway celebrated its half century by purchasing the street outside of its headquarters in Milford, Conn. The name? “Sub Way.”

But all’s not well with the chain. Last year, sales declined by 3%, or $400 million. And Subway’s longtime spokesperson, Jared Fogle, who claimed to have lost over 200 pounds by eating the chain’s food, recently agreed to a plea deal over child pornography charges and for having sex with minors.

MONEY Food & Drink

Are You Ready for the McWhopper?

Burger King has asked McDonald's to participate in a one-day collaboration.

The burger wars just got interesting, folks.

Burger King wants McDonald’s to lay down its arms and come together in a peaceful truce on Sept. 21 to create the McWhopper, a joint burger between the two fast food giants. This ceasefire, should McDonald’s agree to it, would last for just the one day – Peace Day – to benefit the United Nations-created nonprofit Peace One Day. Calling it a “big burger with big ambitions,” Burger King wants to bring attention to the U.N.’s International Day of Peace. McDonald’s has not said yes, but CEO Steve Easterbrook says, “We’ll be in touch.”

Read next: Blame Millennials for Spicy Fast Food

TIME Fast Food

Burger King Wants McDonald’s Help to Make the ‘McWhopper’

All in the name of world peace

Burger King has offered McDonald’s a golden opportunity to come together and make one burger to rule them all — in the name of world peace, of course.

In full-page ads running Wednesday in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune – the hometown paper of the Illinois-based McDonald’s – the fast-food chain is proposing the “McWhopper,” a hybrid of each company’s signature Big Mac and Whopper burgers that will be sold for one day in one pop-up store in one city.

That city, Burger King is proposing, would be Atlanta, a meeting point between both company’s headquarters. The marketing stunt would be held on Sept. 21, with proceeds benefiting the anti-conflict nonprofit Peace One Day.

Burger King has also set up a website listing out its proposal, even suggesting a recipe for the new hybrid burger: it will contain six ingredients from the Big Mac (like cheese and special sauce) and six from the Whopper (like the flame-grilled patty and onions).

McDonald’s responded on Facebook Wednesday morning:

Dear Burger King,

Inspiration for a good cause… great idea.

We love the intention but think our two brands could do something bigger to make a difference.

We commit to raise awareness worldwide, perhaps you’ll join us in a meaningful global effort?

And every day, let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequaled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war.

We’ll be in touch.

-Steve, McDonald’s CEO

P.S. A simple phone call will do next time.

Such publicity could help provide needed positive news for both companies, each struggling to improve revenues in a new health-conscious, “fast-casual” dining environment. Burger King, owned by private equity group 3G Capital, temporarily lost its ranking as the world’s No. 2 burger chain to Wendy’s last year. Meanwhile, McDonald’s recently reported a 10% drop in quarterly sales, with new CEO Steve Easterbrook calling the results “disappointing”.

Read more: 9 Fast Food Hybrids More Marketable Than the McWhopper

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This Is The Problem With McDonald’s New Digital Self-service Kiosks

Scott Olson—Getty Images A sign directs customers to the drive-thru at a McDonald's restaurant on Oct. 24, 2013 in Des Plaines, Ill.

It's useless to 70% of restaurant visitors.

McDonald’s is introducing a new digital self-service kiosk in the hopes of increasing sales, Business Insider reports. This is part of McDonald’s new “Create Your Taste” platform and caters to customers’ increasingly prevalent desire to customize their meals rather than choosing from a set list of menu items.

Implementing these kiosks is expected to cost franchisees between $120,000 and $160,000. Quite an expense considering its limited advantage.

McDonald’s receives about 70% of its sales from drive-thru customers. The self-serve kiosk, which is only accessible from inside the restaurant, is only available to 30% of the fast food chain’s clientele.

Richard Adams, former McDonald’s franchisee and current president of Franchise Equity Group, told QSR Magazine: “The reality is that it doesn’t apply to the 70 percent of customers that choose the drive-thru…. I think this is more a stunt to appeal Wall Street investors instead of being practical for the restaurant operator.”


Cleveland Clinic Is The Latest Hospital To Dump McDonald’s

McDonalds Holds National Hiring Day To Add 50,000 Employees
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A McDonald's employee prepares an order during a one-day hiring event at a McDonald's restaurant on April 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California.

The clinic says it wants to promote healthier options.

A hospital cafeteria probably isn’t the first place you’d think of to get your McDonald’s fix. But after September 18, it will no longer be an available option at the Cleveland Clinic.

The hospital announced it’s cutting ties with the fast food chain in order to promote wellness, NPR reported.

“Cleveland Clinic wants to help patients and visitors and our employees turn to healthier lifestyles and healthier choices,” according to clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil to The Salt.

The hospital is reportedly the seventh since 2009 to get rid of a McDonald’s in its cafeteria, according to NPR.

In other McDonald’s news, the chain is hoping to boost sales with a new innovation: Egg McMuffin’s offered all day.

TIME Food & Drink

See Images of Your Favorite Foods Sliced Directly Down the Middle

From ice cream to fried chicken

When photographer Beth Galton and food stylist Charlotte Omnès decided to collaborate, they wanted to take a critical look at foods we eat every day.

During the process of choosing those items, they realized that pairing various foods together would be more efficient and visually appealing. “Shown together, they create a stronger statement about their symbolic nature,” Galton told Business Insider.

It’s not the first time a photographer has tackled bisected foods, but it’s not a common practice, either. The images are technically difficult and time-consuming to make — but in the end, they are truly eye-opening. We talked to Galton about how she created the series.

There is no set approach to the process of slicing and shooting. “Each item had its own set of issues that both Charlotte and I tried to solve,” Galton says. While they were able to slice some of the foods in half easily, there were some cases where multiple images had to be taken and then later pieced together with Photoshop. A seasoned stylist, Omnès was able to create solutions to various problems they would run into, including adding gelatin to the soup.

They also worked with two digital retouchers. “When our ideas could not be created realistically, they would help guide us with creating enough images for them to assemble the image we wanted,” Galton says. “They both added their creativity as well as their technical expertise to the process.”

“[Retoucher] Daniel helped create the cup of coffee cut in half, Ashlee had to rebuild the bottom of the chicken bucket and work on the pour shot of the gravy,” says Galton. Galton has several favorites, and the coffee shot is one of them.

Another favorite was the cereal box. “Charlotte’s first pour was almost perfect,” Galton says. It only took a few attempts to get it all the elements together the way they wanted. The turkey image was one of the most labor-intensive shots. They initially tried to cut it in half with a hacksaw while frozen, but eventually used a band saw to get the slice just right.

To keep their series visually stimulating, they were very careful in their food selections. No big surprise — they decided not to include a cake. Because they stuck to the foods that visually appealed to them both, Omnès and Galton were very happy with all the images included in the final series. When asked if they ever ate the leftovers, Galton says, “never!”

After dedicating a lot of focus and time to this project, Galton and Omnès are letting it breathe for a bit, leaving time to experiment with other ideas. “That’s not to say we won’t go back to it,” Galton says. “But nothing is planned.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

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MONEY Food & Drink

What Americans Are Ordering Even More of at Lunchtime

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It ain't health food, that's for sure.

Generally speaking, Americans say they want healthier diets—more organic foods, more vegetables, less sugar, salt, and fat, and so on. But trends like the rising popularity of grab-and-go food at convenience stores, as well as the long list of “healthy” fast foods that failed to catch on with consumers indicates that often, we don’t put our money where our mouths are.

So it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that lunchtime consumption of the all-American burger is on the rise. A new study from the NPD Group refers to burgers as the “Heavy Artillery in Restaurant Lunch Wars,” providing 8.9 billion servings for the year ending in June 2015. (This is strictly an estimate for restaurant servings, not backyard barbecues and such; the total burger tally for the entire country is roughly 50 billion burgers per year.)

It bodes well for the economy that lunchtime restaurant visits in general are up, increasing 2% at casual-dining (sit-down) chains—the first time in five years midday traffic has risen for this struggling category—and increasing 1% at quick-serve (fast food) establishments as well. And it’s the humble burger that’s having an outsize influence in driving sales higher. Burger orders at casual-dining restaurants are up 3% year over year, the only part of the menu to record an increase.

Even if they’re not the healthiest options out there, the fact that burgers are tasty and ubiquitous and tend to be on the less-expensive end of the menu has certainly boosted sales. “Successful casual dining operators offer burgers that meet the tastes of their customers and are priced competitively,” NPD restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs said. “As a result, they gain lunch visitors.”

Read next: Best Places in the U.S. for Foodies


Guess What Starbucks Just Added to Its Pumpkin Spice Latte?

No, it's not latte. And it's not spice.

Coffee giant Starbucks announced this week that when it brings back its seasonal favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte this fall, the beverage will actually contain pumpkin.

Previously, the concoction had contained no pumpkin, but instead spices associated with pumpkin pie.

Also as part of the PSL reformulation, the drink will no longer be made with caramel food coloring, the company explained in a blog post.

Instead, the PSL will contain what the company calls “Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce.” Here’s Starbucks’ ingredient list for that:

Sugar, Condensed Skim Milk, Pumpkin Puree, Contains 2% or Less of Fruit and Vegetable Juice for Color, Natural Flavors, Annatto…, Potassium Sorbate …, Salt)

The PSL’s spice topping will comprise cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove.

Although the company said the change came in response to feedback from customers and partners, at least one customer was disappointed with the new formula. Referring to the condensed skim milk in the Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce, commenter “JenSwift” wrote

As a vegan I am crushed I can’t have this. I was so hopeful when I read the announcement that you’d reformulated it. When I still drank dairy this was my favorite drink. I will love you forever when you make a vegan Pumpkin Spice flavoring.

Read next: Starbucks Just Released an App Update That Lets You Skip Waiting in Line

TIME Burger King

One Direction May Have Accidentally Caused the Return of Burger King’s Chicken Fries

Burger King

Boy bands: changing the world one fast food chain at a time

Spicy chicken fries are coming out this week, and it may have something to do with a misconstrued tweet sent by Liam Payne, band member of One Direction and every 13-year-old girl’s dream man.

Original chicken fries were sold between 2005 and 2012, but they gained some attention on social media when BuzzFeed published a listicle entitled “35 Foods From Your Childhood That Are Extinct Now,” which included chicken fries, the Associated Press reports.

Even more enthusiasm about the extinct menu item from the fast food giant Burger King was generated when Payne tweeted the following:

A previous tweet referring to “the kernel” (more commonly known as “The Colonel”) suggests that he was actually eating at KFC. He likely omitted the necessary commas which would have made it clear that he was eating “chicken, fries, and sides,” and not “chicken fries,” especially since Burger King had yet to resurrect them.

AP was not able to get a comment from Payne for clarification, but a representative from Burger King said, “Whatever he meant, it certainly helped catapult ‘Chicken Fries’ into pop culture consciousness as a follow up to the Buzzfeed story.”

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