Big Gets...Smaller

Five years after launching 1⁄3 and 2⁄3lb 100% Black Angus beef Thickburgers, Hardee’s has begun to think small. The chain has introduced a reduced-size version of the popular burgers especially for smaller appetites, noting it is “for those who want a little less burger but aren’t willing to settle for lower-quality value menu fare.”

The Little Thickburgers are not much smaller than their namesakes, weighing in at 1⁄4lb, and are priced at $1.99. Other than that, the Little Thickburgers are mirror images of their larger counterparts, including diced red onions, whole lettuce leaves, a tomato and dill pickles on a grilled, seeded bun.

Hardee’s sibling, Carl’s Jr., meanwhile, has added a monster to its breakfast menu. The Monster Breakfast Sandwich promises to be “as big as its famously filling burgers” and features two eggs, two strips of bacon, a sausage patty and two cheeses between grilled sourdough bread.

Panning Pizza

The country’s largest pizza chains are moving away from their bread and butter, so to speak. Domino’s Pizza, for instance, has added four oven-baked sandwiches to its menu, all on artisan Italian bread: Philly Cheese Steak (steak with two cheeses, onions, green peppers and mushrooms), Chicken Bacon Ranch (all white-meat chicken, bacon, ranch dressing and provolone), Chicken Parm (all white-meat chicken, tomato basil marinara, Parmesan-Asiago and provolone cheeses) and Italian (pepperoni, Genoa salami, provolone, banana peppers, green peppers and onions).

Meanwhile, Pizza Hut went to great lengths earlier in the year to promote its addition of Tuscani Pastas, including marketing efforts trying to suggest the chain had changed its name to Pasta Hut. Now, the chain is incorporating economics into its pasta pitch: contending that ordering the pastas instead of grocery shopping and cooking the dish can save almost two hours and more than $3.

Dollar Signs

Faculty members of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration have studied the impact of dollar signs on menus upon consumer spending patterns.

The study found that restaurant customers spent more when no dollar sign preceded the price on a menu. The research was performed at CIA’s St. Andrew’s Café in Hyde Park, N.Y., where lunch guests were randomly given one of three menus: prices in a $xx.xx format, prices with the number only and no dollar sign, and prices spelled out (ten dollars).

Menus “without an overt reference to money” resulted in an 8.15% increase in average spending per person. The study found no real difference between menus using dollar signs and those that spelled out “dollars.”

Calorie Count

California is the first state to enact a law requiring chain restaurants to put calorie counts on their menus and indoor menu boards. Any chain with 20 or more locations will be required to post the carbohydrate, sodium, calorie and saturated fat content of each item by 2011. Any chain in violation of the law could face a fine of $50-500. Similar proposals are in the works for cities across the country.

This comes in the wake of a Los Angeles moratorium on fast food restaurant openings. However, Technomic Inc. found only 44% of South Los Angeles residents were even aware of the rule. Of those that were aware of it, just over half supported it, while the remainder had no opinion or were opposed.

Some 41% believe the rule will affect obesity rates, though 31% believe it will not; the remaining 38% had no opinion.