Fast-Food Chains Go Smaller And Come Up Big

Good news is coming in smaller packages at fast-food restaurants.

When Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's announced an August same-store sales increase of 3.5 percent, it attributed the rise in part to the introduction of a $1.29 chicken snack wrap.

In contrast to oversized burgers topped with everything but the kitchen sink, the chicken snack wrap is a modest offering of chicken, cheese, lettuce and ranch sauce wrapped in a soft flour tortilla. Ads position it as an easy-to-hold, between-meal snack.

A McDonald's spokeswoman wouldn't discuss whether the chain plans to extend the menu with another wrap, saying only: "We will continue to listen to customers and meet their needs."

Still, the wrap's success shows that for restaurants, good news can come in small packages. McDonald's successful Dollar Menu is one example; another is Wendy's Super Value menu, introduced in 1989 and one of fast food's consistent success stories.

The idea isn't limited to quick service. Full-service chains are subscribing to the less-is-more dictum as well. Last year, Houlihan's--the Kansas City, Mo.-based chain of 87 casual dining restaurants--rolled out three mini-desserts priced at $1.99 each. The six offerings, ranging from a crème brulee to a fruit cobbler to strawberry cheesecake, rejuvenated dessert sales and even added a few cents to the average check.



And, if portions aren't small, prices can be. That's the story with T.G.I. Friday's new appetizers. In early August, Carrollton, Texas-based Friday's, which operates 948 restaurants, introduced three $4 starters: battered and fried green beans, Southwestern-flavored potato skins, and chicken wings with three dipping sauces. But customers need to hurry and get them while they're hot (and cheap): The limited-time offer will end Oct. 19.

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