Too Much Beef: Why Arby’s is so low on the restaurant food chain.

The recession – which is arguably over – left many consumers resorting to inexpensive values at fast-food restaurants. McDonald’s came out of the downturn seemingly unscathed, but others were not as fortunate, namely Arby’s. For me, the restaurant was always a gag on the Simpsons, a place not even the ravenous Homer would try. While attending college in the Midwest, I tended to overlook the ubiquitous restaurant in favor of other chains. However, everyone I know who has eaten there speaks highly of their food. Slate columnist Daniel Gross suggests a few reasons for Arby’s decline:

  • Location: Arby’s is heavily concentrated in the Midwest, which was hit first and hardest by the recession. Same-store sales have suffered for the last seven quarters.
  • Menu Diversity: Last week, we saw Yum! Brand’s initiative to be innovative. Competitors like McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC have all made strides to cater to various palates by offering salads and more nutritious options. This ability to diversity and accommodate has been attributed to these restaurants ability to retain loyalty and attract new customers. It appears Arby’s has done little to break away from its image as a meat-centric kind of place.

For now, Arby’s is attempting to make strides. They’ve merged with Wendy’s in an effort to create a better brand image.

But as the economy improves and consumers become free spending, I start to think of price thresholds. This is a psychological maneuver companies employ to establish themselves. For instance, you probably can’t find a Mercedes for less than the cost of one year tuition at Princeton, because to lower the cost of their cars would be death to the hoity-toity brand image. On the other hand, I look at an Arby’s menu and I question the quality of the food when it costs less to feed me than your everyday housecat. Perhaps the meat is unprocessed and is of tremendous quality, but the price point (five roast beef sandwiches for $5) instinctively makes me question their supply of beef, and a few times, reluctant to buy even a soda from them.

While Mr. Gross’s Slate article offers a fair assessment of Arby’s struggle, he also takes a charming yet snobbish attitude toward the food. You can draw your own conclusions. I, for one, have surprisingly found myself questioning the Simpsons.

Reade the Slate article here.

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