While many brands have streamlined menus to optimize labor, Jack in the Box has expanded its menu to include several innovations.
The burger brand has unveiled chicken sandwiches, tacos and breakfast offerings — making it a versatile choice for any daypart.
QSRweb spoke with Ryan Ostrom, chief marketing officer at Jack in the Box, by email to learn why the company offers so many choices and how it affects operations.
Q:What's new on the menu and how did they come about?
A:Jack in the Box is an industry pioneer and innovator in many ways. We were the first QSR to launch a breakfast sandwich and the first portable salad. In addition, we've led the way in taco innovation and have become a burger brand best known for our tacos, all while ensuring we maintain high standards and that everything on our menu reflects that same level of quality. For example, we were unhappy with the initial rollout of our chicken sandwich in 2020, as we felt it could have been bigger, crispier, juicier and well, just better; consequently, this motivated us to create what we believe is now the best chicken sandwich in the industry. We unveiled our new Cluck Sandwich and BBQ Cluck Sandwich in tandem with our Chicken Alaska campaign and partnership with King Bach, which poked fun at the ongoing Chicken Wars. As everyone knows, chicken sandwiches continue to be hugely popular, which is why we're excited to also offer a unique BBQ twist on the Cluck Sandwich.
We also just relaunched our famous Monster Tacos in time for Halloween. The Monster Tacos are a fan favorite and we celebrated their return in a unique way. Jack in the Box superfans helped relaunch the tacos at Columbia Mills — a haunted textile factory in Los Angeles that has served as the set of horror movies like "Saw." It was really fun to see the fans take part in the relaunch of a favorite menu item. In addition, we'll be introducing several new menu items in the near future and look forward to our guests continuing to enjoy our expansive menu.
Q:Why is the company expanding its menu, and why have such a big menu when a small one will do?
A:We think differently and do the unexpected and Jack in the Box has always taken a fun and unique approach to menu innovation. It's who we are and it's our DNA. We're actually a burger brand known best for our tacos and we have several other well-known signature items including egg rolls, croissant sandwiches, mini churros, all-day breakfast and more. We like to consider Jack in the Box the curly fry in a world of regular fries and we've found that guests truly love the menu range we provide. In addition, we offer our entire menu all day, so our guests can have Tiny Tacos for breakfast or a Loaded Breakfast Sandwich for dinner.
Q:Why has it been a good idea to expand the menu right now as many brands grapple with labor shortages?
A:Ensuring that we optimize operations while maintaining our menu variety is key and we are able to accomplish that feat at our restaurants. We like to give our guests what they want and they expect the exciting, expansive menu each time they visit a Jack in the Box. Our menu plays into our larger CRAVED (cultural, relevant, authentic, visible, easy and distinctive) strategy, which emphasizes four key areas: marketing, product & packaging, restaurant design and digital experience and will help drive brand loyalty. We're not afraid to be bold and create innovative menu offerings that appeal to different guests.
Q:Speaking of staffing shortages, how is Jack in the Box fairing with labor in such a volatile time? What is Jack in the Box doing to combat labor shortages and what are some tips you can give our B2B readers for managing labor in such a short-staffed market?
A:The labor shortage is an industry-wide issue that all restaurant brands are working through at the moment. We are continuing to focus on what makes Jack in the Box such a great place to work so our franchisees can recruit new talent to their stores and retain existing employees.
Q:Tell us about the company's five dayparts and how the menu applies to each one?
A:Jack in the Box competes in five distinct dayparts — breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and late-night. We do have dedicated foods that are typically served across certain dayparts including hash browns and breakfast burritos for breakfast or burgers, chicken sandwiches and tacos for lunch and dinner. We're also big leaders in snacking with our Tiny Tacos, mini churros and other items. Late-night is also a huge differentiator for our brand and we offer our guests a variety of indulgent items to satisfy their late-night cravings including our Munchie Meal line.
However, even though our menu can apply to traditional dayparts, we offer our entire menu all day long and we are open 24 hours. So, if you want a Buttery Jack for breakfast or a Sausage Breakfast Jack at 2 am after a long night, then you can find that at Jack in the Box. We understand our guests are searching for variety and we offer menu options that you can't find at other QSR's. It's a major piece of what differentiates us from our competitors.
Q:How big is breakfast to Jack in the Box?
A:We're known as the pioneer of all-day breakfast and Jack in the Box was also the first fast-food brand to roll out the breakfast sandwich. Our guests love our breakfast options and while many choose to eat it in the morning, we still offer breakfast 24 hours a day, which is a key differentiator for our brand. In addition, and despite the complexities of the pandemic, our digital breakfast sales have remained double what they were pre-COVID, which speaks to how much our guests really enjoy our breakfast menu and look forward to getting it anytime they want it.
Q:How are new menu items tested?
A:Our data and insights help us determine whether a product market test or systemwide rollout is the best approach. Depending on the item, we may elect to test at select Jack in the Box locations in certain markets before progressing systemwide. Additionally, we frequently offer LTOs at participating Jack in the Box locations to offer our guests new and unique menu items, while ensuring we don't lose sight of the core items that our guests have come to know and love.
Q:When it comes to rolling out new menu items, what advice can Jack in the Box offer for successful roll outs?
A:Timing and creative marketing are essential to bringing awareness to your product and to building sales. Earlier, I mentioned our CRAVED approach and how marketing is a key component of that. As part of our marketing strategy to make Jack in the Box more "CRAVED," we're focused on being unapologetically Jack and will push ourselves to the edge to bring the brand to life in unique and creative ways. In today's competitive landscape, it's also essential to have a digital-first mindset to better engage with loyal and new guests and to reach them on platforms that they utilize daily.
With that said, to authentically engage with your loyal customer base and target new ones, brands must be able to identify targeted demographics and understand guest interests. For example, we found that we do comparatively well with our guests who show strong interest in the sports and gaming segments. As a result, Jack in the Box was the first QSR brand to aggressively involve ourselves with e-sports through our sponsorship of Team Envy and partnership with Envy Gaming.
I previously touched upon the unveiling of our Cluck Sandwich and BBQ Cluck, in addition to the return of our Monster Tacos. We utilized creative marketing campaigns to launch the new Cluck Sandwich and BBQ Cluck, as well as the Monster Tacos to drive menu item awareness and sales.
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