As QSR brands close their books on 2021, many are shaking their heads in disbelief that they emerged tougher than ever from the greatest crisis the industry ever faced. Thanks to constant innovation in menus, drive-through, delivery and takeout -- not to mention America's insatiable appetite for affordable convenience -- they're even showing remarkable resilience facing labor issues and supply-chain struggles.
Their biggest challenge, judging by the list of QSR Land's top 10 stories? Finding a way -- any way -- to differentiate themselves from their equally ingenious and inventive competitors.
Advertising, of course, is the most available tool, so it's not surprising that our most-read story, "Domino's Dominates Ad Impressions, While Arby's Is Fastest Rising," focuses on campaigns that are making the most impact. Survival stories, like "Amid Restaurant Carnage, Cracker Barrel And Darden Shine" (no. 9) and "Chuck E. Cheese Plots Comeback Promotions" (no. 3), are also irresistible.
Recognizing the way fast-food companies can -- and should -- connect to larger purpose-driven societal initiatives, readers were eager to learn about brands' effort to help. That includes the push to get Americans vaccinated -- with "McDonald's Joins Massive 'We Can Do This' Campaign" ranking second -- and better protect the environment, with "Chipotle, Shawn Mendes Team Up On New Sustainability Push"(no. 8).
Other causes also resonate, including the importance of protecting small, local brands, as shown in "Can Slice, The Pizza Platform, Save The Locals?" (no. 7), and literacy, in "With Book It! Reboot, Pizza Hut Builds On 'Newstalgia'" (no. 4.)
And finally, readers want to know what the big fellas are up to, whether it's "McDonald's Barrels Into New Year With Chicken And Marketing Might" (no. 5), "Starbucks Cozies Up To Its Drive-Through Future" (no. 10) or the relentlessly contagious toe-tapping sparked by an obscure country singer in "Applebee's Taps TikTok's 'Fancy Like' Frenzy" (no. 6).