I know this is going to sound egotistical, but I just can’t help myself: I love being right!
At the end of every year in just about every major consumer goods industry, experts offer predictions of the trends you can expect to see in the following year. So in my last blog of 2017, I wrote about five trends, one of which was value menus:
Fast food is once again putting the spotlight on value menus, as evidenced by recent announcements that Taco Bell will add 20 items to its dollar menu, McDonald’s new value menu will be comprised of items ranging from $1-$3, and Del Taco is revamping and expanding its Buck and Under menu. With these three major players focusing on value menus again, it only makes sense that their competitors will soon do the same.
Recently, Wendy’s announced an expansion of its “4 for $4” menu to include eight different entrees: the Double Stack, Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Grilled Go-Wrap, Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, Crispy Chicken BLT, Jr. Cheeseburger, Spicy Go-Wrap, or Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe.
“We invented the 4 for $4 to give our customers the best meal in America for $4, and the response has been amazing,” Kurt Kane, Wendy’s chief concept and marketing officer, said in the press release. “Now we’re taking things to an even higher level by expanding on variety with eight different choices. With all of those options, plus nuggets, fries and a drink, guests get a full meal made from ingredients that match our commitment to quality. There’s no reason to go anyplace else.”
Meanwhile, Jack in the Box revamped its value menu to offer items ranging from $1 to $5. Called “Value Done Jack’s Way,” menu choices include four chicken nuggets for $1, a breakfast pocket for $2, three of the brand’s tacos and a small drink for $3, and the Bonus Jack combo for $5 or less.
“Value Done Jack’s Way is our competitive stake in the ground in a very value-driven market,” said Jennifer Kennedy, vice president of product marketing at Jack in the Box, in a recent article by Meat + Poultry. “We’re offering products that leverage our menu variety and craveable flavors, all at a competitive price tag.”
Jack in the Box’s new variation of its value menu is particularly interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it’s closely following what McDonald’s recently did with its value menu: highlight certain products at tiered price points (McDonald’s is touting a $1-$3 range). Second, it is emphasizing customers’ ongoing desire to customize their meals. By touting a wide range of prices in a value menu, you’re presenting to customers the option of choosing every single facet of their value menu meal, along with the price point they’re comfortable with.
How prominent will this varied value menu concept become? Prominent enough that Del Taco is already attacking the concept in a new TV ad featuring its own value menu, saying that “value menus” offering items for $2, $3 and $5 aren’t really value menus. Carl’s Jr. is also lambasting the idea, with a TV ad calling such choices “Dollar Menu Bingo.”
One thing we know for sure: Thus far in 2018, my crystal ball is accurate.
Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.