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Published: Thursday, 4/11/2013

Arby’s using Toledo to test menu changes

Restaurant chain seeks input on mix-and-match approach

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo was among the 13 test markets selected for the new ‘Snack ’n Save’ menu at Arby’s. That menu includes Mighty Minis, a slider-style sandwich that comes with hot turkey or roast beef. Toledo was among the 13 test markets selected for the new ‘Snack ’n Save’ menu at Arby’s. That menu includes Mighty Minis, a slider-style sandwich that comes with hot turkey or roast beef.
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Toledoans’ taste buds are being asked once again to help determine whether a fast food chain’s new menu offerings will make it in the big time.

Since April 1, all of Arby’s Toledo-area restaurants have been offering customers a new value-style menu that features additions such as a chocolate molten lava cake, baked potatoes, and turkey or roast beef Mighty Minis — a slider-style sandwich.

The Glass City is one of 13 markets where the “Snack ’n Save” menu is being tested. Restaurants in Cleveland and Detroit also have the menu, an Arby’s spokesman said.

The Atlanta-based restaurant chain is best known for its roast beef, but it doesn’t want to pigeonhole itself.

“We’re proud of that, but we’re more than that,” said Karen Anderson, senior vice president of business intelligence and consumer insights with Arby’s.

Arby’s says the goal of the new mix-and-match menu is to let customers choose how they want to use the menu — whether it be adding on extras to meals or for a between-meal snack.

Pricing also ranges more than a traditional dollar value menu, with items ranging from $1 to $3. Ms. Anderson said that layered approach is becoming more popular in the fast food industry.

It’s not the first time a large restaurant chain has looked to Toledo for insight into how consumers would react to new offerings.

In 2011, Toledo was the exclusive test market when Taco Bell introduced its Doritos Locos Taco. The taco, featuring a shell made of Doritos corn chips, was later added nationwide and has been wildly successful. A second Doritos-flavored taco was added earlier this year.

Taco Bell also used Toledo as one of four test markets in 2007 for a new breakfast menu. In 2004, Boston Market tested home delivery in Toledo.

Ainsworth Bailey, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Toledo, said it makes sense that companies are drawn to Toledo when testing new menus and products.

“You’re looking for a market that is relatively small. You probably don’t want it in big cities like New York City where you can’t control a lot of variables,” he said. “You’re also looking for quiet. You want to do this, but below the radar.”

In this case, it probably doesn’t hurt that Toledo has college students, because a value menu practically beckons to cash-strapped students.

More importantly, Toledo works as a good stand-in for any number of other places in America.

“For the test market, you want the target audience to reflect the wider audience you’re going after,” he said.

Ms. Anderson said Toledo is a good and high-visibility market for Arby’s, and that the city has a lot of the demographics they sought when looking for test audiences, making it a good bellwether.“It’s highly representative of our markets as a whole,” she said.

Arby’s counts 29 northwest Ohio restaurants in its Toledo market area.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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