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Restaurants Concentrate In Promoting Baskets Instead of Combos

Fast food restaurants have found another lucrative way to promote discounts in their establishments other than value and combo meals: “basket” promotions.

In a Monthly Menu Check report done by financial service provider KeyBanc Capital Markets, quick-service restaurants are said to have shied away from the traditional “combos” (sandwich, side dish and drinks) and shifted to “basket” discounts—two menu items without drinks—in order to boost restaurant sales and increase profitability.

According to Brad Ludington, an analyst of Keybank Capital Markets, baskets (a sandwich and fries, a chicken and salad) are easier to promote to the dollar-conscious consumer since it comes out cheaper than combos, and at the same time allow the restaurants to augment the diners’ checks once customers add a beverage.

“It’s also a good way to convey price points to restaurant diners, giving them a more realistic look into the value of restaurants’ menus, thus giving them a chance to manage their own check,” said Ludington. ”On the restaurants’ side, baskets add a price certainty to commonly ordered side dishes, and still allows space for beverage add-on.”

Combo meals created by excellent restaurant chefs in cozy chef pants have been an effective way to increase sales without couponing or discounting—customers are given a choice that makes them feel like they are getting a deal, even if the combo actually costs the same as a la carte menus. A study done in 2010 by a professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business showed that customers do prefer to buy combo meals regardless of portion size or actual savings, as opposed to buying separate menu items.

Now, instead of combo, the popularity of “baskets” is on the rise. Baskets may not be as complete as combos, but it also gives consumers an impression that they are getting a good deal for their meals. Popular entrees are mixed and matched by restaurant chefs in cool chef pants, combining menu items which are high margin winners, and giving the diner a chance to customize their own combos by getting their own drinks.

Among the chains that offered discounts on baskets are Arby’s, offering fish sandwich and fries for $2.99; Hardee’s, which features a breakfast platter for $2.79; Long John Silver’s, featuring a thick cod basket for $5.99; and Popeyes, which has a Wicked Chicken Basket for $3.99.