Archive for Kate Taylor

Taco Bell will take on rivals in the fast-food chicken wars, as chains like McDonald’s and KFC debut new sandwiches

taco bell chicken fingers
Taco Bell's chicken tenders were tested in two cities 2019. Now, the chain promises more chicken innovation.
  • Taco Bell plans to enter the fast-food chicken battle in 2021.
  • "A lot of players out there are doing a great job, but ... we will interrupt that with what we're going to do on chicken," Taco Bell's global chief food innovation officer Liz Matthews said. 
  • McDonald's and KFC are among the fast-food chains rolling out new chicken sandwiches in February. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As fast-food chains prepare for the 2021 chicken sandwich wars, Taco Bell is ready to enter the fray. 

Taco Bell's global chief food innovation officer Liz Matthews told Insider that customers can expect to see significant menu innovation from the chain when it comes to chicken in 2021. 

"I love watching the competitors," Matthews said in a recent interview. "I think a lot of players out there are doing a great job, but what I will say is that we will interrupt that with what we're going to do on chicken." 

Read more: Leaked documents show how McDonald's plans to win the 2021 chicken-sandwich wars. Here's everything we know about the looming fast-food battle.

Taco Bell has developed a number of fried chicken options in the past. In 2019, the chain ran a test of chicken tenders in two cities. Taco Bell's "Naked Chicken Chalupa" - a chalupa that uses fried chicken as its shell - has become a repeat limited-time offering since its debut in 2017. 

The mystery chicken menu item is part of a wider range of new and returning items slated to hit Taco Bell's menu in 2021.

On Thursday, Taco Bell announced its Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and the Spicy Potato Soft Taco will return to menus in March, following an outcry from customers. Taco Bell also announced a partnership with Beyond Meat to develop plant-based menu items. 

"I think during COVID, everybody had to slow a bit," in terms of menu innovation, Matthews said.

"Behind the scenes, the pipeline never stopped," Matthews added. "My team quickly switched to doing everything virtually. ... I think what you're going to see over the next 24 months is all of that work will come to light." 

2021 brings a renewed battle over chicken 

Popeyes vs chick fil a chicken sandwiches
Chick-fil-A and Popeyes kicked off the battle for the best chicken sandwich.

McDonald's confirmed to Business Insider last week that it plans to launch three chicken sandwiches, made with a new "thicker and juicier" chicken fillet, in late February. The new sandwiches will feature crinkle-cut pickles served on a buttered potato bun, in a style reminiscent of Chick-fil-A's sandwich. 

KFC is also rolling out a new chicken sandwich in February. Last week, the chain announced plans to debut a chicken sandwich made with white meat, served on a brioche bun with pickles and the option of spicy sauce or mayo.

Burger King also has a new chicken sandwich in the works.

Carrols Restaurant Group, Burger King's biggest franchisee, said at the ICR Conference this week that a new chicken sandwich is set to launch across the chain in March or April. UBS analyst Dennis Geiger said in a note to investors that the sandwich is set to be "the biggest sales driver this year," with significantly higher sales than Burger King's current chicken sandwich. (Burger King declined to give further details, saying in a statement: "The King must eat like a king. So, we're constantly testing new items to satisfy his cravings.")

Popeyes kicked off the chicken sandwich wars in 2019 with a new sandwich that rivaled Chick-fil-A's classic menu item. In the months since, Popeyes chicken sandwich has continued to attract customers to the chain. 

Restaurant Brands International, Popeyes' parent company, reported in late October that the chain's sales were up 21.5% in the most recent quarter. José Cil, the company's CEO, told investors that the chicken sandwich continued to be "the largest single driver of sales growth." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Taco Bell will take on rivals in the fast-food chicken wars, as chains like McDonald’s and KFC debut new sandwiches

taco bell chicken fingers
Taco Bell's chicken tenders were tested in two cities 2019. Now, the chain promises more chicken innovation.
  • Taco Bell plans to enter the fast-food chicken battle in 2021.
  • "A lot of players out there are doing a great job, but ... we will interrupt that with what we're going to do on chicken," Taco Bell's global chief food innovation officer Liz Matthews said. 
  • McDonald's and KFC are among the fast-food chains rolling out new chicken sandwiches in February. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As fast-food chains prepare for the 2021 chicken sandwich wars, Taco Bell is ready to enter the fray. 

Taco Bell's global chief food innovation officer Liz Matthews told Insider that customers can expect to see significant menu innovation from the chain when it comes to chicken in 2021. 

"I love watching the competitors," Matthews said in a recent interview. "I think a lot of players out there are doing a great job, but what I will say is that we will interrupt that with what we're going to do on chicken." 

Read more: Leaked documents show how McDonald's plans to win the 2021 chicken-sandwich wars. Here's everything we know about the looming fast-food battle.

Taco Bell has developed a number of fried chicken options in the past. In 2019, the chain ran a test of chicken tenders in two cities. Taco Bell's "Naked Chicken Chalupa" - a chalupa that uses fried chicken as its shell - has become a repeat limited-time offering since its debut in 2017. 

The mystery chicken menu item is part of a wider range of new and returning items slated to hit Taco Bell's menu in 2021.

On Thursday, Taco Bell announced its Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and the Spicy Potato Soft Taco will return to menus in March, following an outcry from customers. Taco Bell also announced a partnership with Beyond Meat to develop plant-based menu items. 

"I think during COVID, everybody had to slow a bit," in terms of menu innovation, Matthews said.

"Behind the scenes, the pipeline never stopped," Matthews added. "My team quickly switched to doing everything virtually. ... I think what you're going to see over the next 24 months is all of that work will come to light." 

2021 brings a renewed battle over chicken 

Popeyes vs chick fil a chicken sandwiches
Chick-fil-A and Popeyes kicked off the battle for the best chicken sandwich.

McDonald's confirmed to Business Insider last week that it plans to launch three chicken sandwiches, made with a new "thicker and juicier" chicken fillet, in late February. The new sandwiches will feature crinkle-cut pickles served on a buttered potato bun, in a style reminiscent of Chick-fil-A's sandwich. 

KFC is also rolling out a new chicken sandwich in February. Last week, the chain announced plans to debut a chicken sandwich made with white meat, served on a brioche bun with pickles and the option of spicy sauce or mayo.

Burger King also has a new chicken sandwich in the works.

Carrols Restaurant Group, Burger King's biggest franchisee, said at the ICR Conference this week that a new chicken sandwich is set to launch across the chain in March or April. UBS analyst Dennis Geiger said in a note to investors that the sandwich is set to be "the biggest sales driver this year," with significantly higher sales than Burger King's current chicken sandwich. (Burger King declined to give further details, saying in a statement: "The King must eat like a king. So, we're constantly testing new items to satisfy his cravings.")

Popeyes kicked off the chicken sandwich wars in 2019 with a new sandwich that rivaled Chick-fil-A's classic menu item. In the months since, Popeyes chicken sandwich has continued to attract customers to the chain. 

Restaurant Brands International, Popeyes' parent company, reported in late October that the chain's sales were up 21.5% in the most recent quarter. José Cil, the company's CEO, told investors that the chicken sandwich continued to be "the largest single driver of sales growth." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Costco is closing all photo centers, sparking despair among customers

Costco
Costco is closing all photo centers.
  • Costco is closing photo centers on February 14 at all of its more than 800 locations around the world. 
  • As a result, Costco will no longer provide ink refills or passport photos in stores. 
  • Costco members mourned the loss of the photo centers, which the chain has already closed in some stores. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Costco is closing its photo centers in all warehouses.

"The photo department at all Costco locations will close on Sunday, February 14, 2021," Costco Photo Center wrote in a recent announcement on its website. 

According to the announcement, the following services will no longer be available: 

  • Ink refills
  • Passport photos
  • Photo restoration
  • YesVideo home movie transfer 

Costco will continue to offer photo prints, greeting cards, photo books, calendars, business printing, and other services through the Costco Photo Center website.

The retailer had already closed photo centers at some of its 558 Costco locations in the US in recent years, as many of the services can be conducted online. Costco declined to comment on the decision.

Read more: Costco's earnings came in better than expected. From $4 million to $8 million, here's how the retail giant pays its executives.

The news was a bitter pill to swallow for some Costco members. 

 

"There really isn't a good alternative, this sucks," one Reddit user commented in a post about the news. "The photo center at the Costcos by me always seemed really busy." 

"The biggest loss is passport photos," commented another. "They were MUCH cheaper compared to anywhere else."

Costco's business has been booming during the pandemic, reporting in December that net sales were up 16.9% in the most recent quarter. Despite the recent online shopping boom, the chain has remained focused on the in-store experience. 

"It's still important to get people physically in the store. I don't think brick and mortar is going away," CEO Craig Jelinek told CNBC in December.

Read the original article on Business Insider

McDonald’s CEO calls insurrection at the US Capitol an attack on things people ‘associate with America,’ including McDonald’s

Chris Kempczinski McDonald's
McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski condemns "unimaginable attacks on democratic norms and institutions in Washington D.C."
  • McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski condemned insurrection by pro-Trump supporters in an internal memo viewed by Business Insider. 
  • "As a quintessentially 'American brand,' McDonald's has always benefitted from the respect and admiration that consumers hold for the ideals of this nation," Kempczinski wrote.
  • "It was an attack on all those things that people cherish and associate with America," Kempczinski added. "That includes McDonald's." 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski joined other business leaders in condemning Wednesday's insurrection by pro-Trump supporters, saying it was an attack on things people associate with America - including McDonald's. 

Kempczinski condemned the insurrection this week as "unimaginable attacks on democratic norms and institutions in Washington D.C." in a letter sent to the McDonald's system viewed by Business Insider on Friday. 

The McDonald's CEO said that while Americans were proud to see Congress "complete their Constitutional duty and enable the peaceful transition of power," the events of the past week could not be forgotten. 

"As a quintessentially 'American brand,' McDonald's has always benefitted from the respect and admiration that consumers hold for the ideals of this nation," Kempczinski wrote. "So much of this rests within this country's strong system of governance, freely elected leadership, and our rule of law."

"Thus, the attack that we witnessed this week wasn't just an attack on our Capitol building," Kempczinski continued. "It was an attack on all those things that people cherish and associate with America. That includes McDonald's." 

Kempczinski noted that he joined other members of the Business Round Table, a group of 200 CEOs of many of the largest companies in the US, to condemn President Trump and other officials who incited the insurrection. Other CEOs who have spoken out against the attempted coup include Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. 

"While the events this past week at the U.S. Capitol are painful on many levels, I am confident that our nation can rediscover its sense of shared purpose and community," Kempczinski wrote. "They need look no further than their local McDonald's, where we demonstrate what's possible in our communities each and every day." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

McDonald’s CEO calls insurrection at the US Capitol an attack on things people ‘associate with America,’ including McDonald’s

Chris Kempczinski McDonald's
McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski condemns "unimaginable attacks on democratic norms and institutions in Washington D.C."
  • McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski condemned insurrection by pro-Trump supporters in an internal memo viewed by Business Insider. 
  • "As a quintessentially 'American brand,' McDonald's has always benefitted from the respect and admiration that consumers hold for the ideals of this nation," Kempczinski wrote.
  • "It was an attack on all those things that people cherish and associate with America," Kempczinski added. "That includes McDonald's." 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski joined other business leaders in condemning Wednesday's insurrection by pro-Trump supporters, saying it was an attack on things people associate with America - including McDonald's. 

Kempczinski condemned the insurrection this week as "unimaginable attacks on democratic norms and institutions in Washington D.C." in a letter sent to the McDonald's system viewed by Business Insider on Friday. 

The McDonald's CEO said that while Americans were proud to see Congress "complete their Constitutional duty and enable the peaceful transition of power," the events of the past week could not be forgotten. 

"As a quintessentially 'American brand,' McDonald's has always benefitted from the respect and admiration that consumers hold for the ideals of this nation," Kempczinski wrote. "So much of this rests within this country's strong system of governance, freely elected leadership, and our rule of law."

"Thus, the attack that we witnessed this week wasn't just an attack on our Capitol building," Kempczinski continued. "It was an attack on all those things that people cherish and associate with America. That includes McDonald's." 

Kempczinski noted that he joined other members of the Business Round Table, a group of 200 CEOs of many of the largest companies in the US, to condemn President Trump and other officials who incited the insurrection. Other CEOs who have spoken out against the attempted coup include Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. 

"While the events this past week at the U.S. Capitol are painful on many levels, I am confident that our nation can rediscover its sense of shared purpose and community," Kempczinski wrote. "They need look no further than their local McDonald's, where we demonstrate what's possible in our communities each and every day." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Leaked documents show how McDonald’s plans to win the 2021 chicken-sandwich wars. Here’s everything we know about the looming fast-food battle.

McDonald's New Crispy Chicken Sandwich
McDonald's new chicken sandwich looks a lot like Chick-fil-A's menu item.
  • McDonald's improved chicken sandwiches will roll out nationally in late February, a leaked menu viewed by Business Insider shows.
  • The memo confirms the sandwich aims to take a page out of Chick-fil-A's playbook, with the same ingredients and similar spicy and deluxe variations. It's to be served in a foil bag.
  • Chains including KFC, Wendy's, and Burger King have either been testing or rolling out new chicken sandwiches in recent months.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

McDonald's is taking a clear aim at Chick-fil-A in the 2021 chicken-sandwich wars, an internal memo viewed by Business Insider shows.

The fast-food giant appears set to launch three chicken sandwiches, made with a new "thicker and juicier" chicken fillet, on February 24, McDonald's confirmed.

Advertising for the improved chicken sandwiches is set to roll out in early March.

The new Crispy Chicken Sandwich will feature chicken and crinkle-cut pickles served on a buttered potato bun.

If the sandwich sounds familiar, it might be because you've eaten Chick-fil-A's chicken sandwich, which also features the simple combination of a chicken fillet, pickles, and a buttered bun. For comparison, Popeyes tops sandwiches with mayo, as do most fast-food chicken sandwiches. 

McDonald's is also set to debut the Spicy Crispy Chicken sandwich, made with crinkle-cut pickles and a new spicy pepper sauce, and the Deluxe Crispy Chicken sandwich, with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and mayonnaise.

(Chick-fil-A also serves a spicy sandwich, made with seasoned chicken, and a deluxe sandwich, with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and American cheese.)

Except for the deluxe option, the new crispy chicken sandwiches will be served in a foil bag - a presentation style that Popeyes and Chick-fil-A use, but that McDonald's has previously eschewed.

Read more: 95% of McDonald's franchisees vote to cut all 'nonessential' contact with corporate in protest over millions in new costs

Here's everything we know about the competitors in the 2021 chicken-sandwich war

Wendys_new_Classic_Chicken_Sandwich
Wendy's new Classic Chicken Sandwich.

In November, McDonald's announced plans to introduce the Crispy Chicken Sandwich in the US in early 2021.

"Developing a reputation for great chicken represents one of our highest aspirations," McDonald's head of its US business Joe Erlinger said at the time. "We want customers to choose McDonald's for chicken because of the unique, craveable flavor that they can only get under the arches."

McDonald's isn't the only chain gearing up for a battle of the chicken sandwiches in 2021. Here's the lineup of chains that are testing sandwiches or have already rolled out an updated chicken sandwich:

  • Burger King was spotted testing a new chicken sandwich in October. UBS analyst Dennis Geiger said in a note in December that a 2021 chicken sandwich launch is sparking "notable optimism" among franchisees. (Burger King declined to give further details on a launch, saying in a statement: "The King must eat like a king. So, we're constantly testing new items to satisfy his cravings.)
  • KFC launched a chicken sandwich test in May. "We wanted a chicken sandwich that really lives up to our legacy as the fried chicken experts and, let's face it, ours wasn't the one to beat," KFC US Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Zahumensky said at the time in a press release.
  • Wendy's released a new chicken sandwich in October. The new "classic chicken sandwich," replaced the "homestyle chicken sandwich" on Wendy's menu.
  • Church's Chicken added its first chicken sandwich to the menu in late October.
  • Jack in the Box debuted the Cluck Sandwich in December. The new sandwich is thicker than the chain's existing chicken sandwich.
  • Zaxby's is serving a new chicken sandwich in test locations and announced in December that the sandwich will roll out nationally in 2021. The chain tweeted in October: "The chicken sandwich war ain't over yet." 
  • Whataburger rolled out a new spicy chicken sandwich in September.

New sandwiches will have to compete with Chick-fil-A and Popeyes

Popeyes vs chick fil a chicken sandwiches
Popeyes (right) challenged Chick-fil-A's title as the king of chicken sandwiches last year.

Two chains that haven't made major chicken-related announcements are Chick-fil-A and Popeyes. 

Chick-fil-A calls itself the home of the original chicken sandwich. Unsurprisingly, the chain hasn't made any major updates to its classic sandwich in decades. As a private company, it is difficult to know how Chick-fil-A has fared financially in 2020 - but, as one of the industry leaders in drive-thru technology, it is likely thriving in the pandemic. 

Popeyes, meanwhile, is still basking in the success of its 2019 chicken-sandwich launch. In late October, parent company Restaurant Brands International reported that Popeyes sales were up 21.5% in the most recent quarter. Restaurant Brands International CEO José Cil said on a call with investors that the chicken sandwich continued to be "the largest single driver of sales growth."

"This result comes on top of 10% comparable sales growth during the third quarter of 2019, which is when we initially launched the chicken sandwich in August," Cil said. "Millions of people have been coming back for the chicken sandwich, but it's been really exciting to still see a significant number of first-time purchasers in Q3."

What does it all mean? 

Popeyes Chick fil a bags
The poultry battles have only just begun.

Industry insiders have been keeping a close eye on the sandwich wars.

Steve Crichlow, the founder of Compass Restaurant Consulting, wrote in a November report that increased competition will affect Popeyes' "domination of the chicken sandwich market."

"From what we have tested and heard (excluding McDonald's version), we expect Wendy's to have the biggest impact," Crichlow wrote. "Not because it is better but rather because Wendy's customers are very loyal to the brand and those that might be currently going to Popeyes to get their Chicken Sandwich fix will come back to Wendy's."

Chicken-breast prices are at five-year highs, according to FreightWaves' newsletter The Stockout, reaching $3.41 per pound. Fast-food chains' success during the pandemic have helped meatpackers regain lost restaurant sales, Bloomberg reports.

"We are encouraged by reports of a chicken-sandwich war in 2021," Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson said on a call with investors in mid-December. 

Sanderson - the chief executive of one of the largest poultry producers in the US - added: "We wish all the participants much success."

Read the original article on Business Insider

In 2020, big businesses got bigger and small businesses died. The vicious cycle won’t stop until we take action.

Andy's Barber Shop closes small business coronavirus
Andy Dufresne closed up his barber shop after 60 years in business because of COVID-19 this July, one of many small business owners forced to shutter for good during the pandemic.
  • Small businesses owners have struggled during the pandemic, with the number of small businesses in the US dropping by 29% since January. 
  • Meanwhile, massive companies like Amazon and Walmart have seen their valuations explode by billions of dollars. 
  • Even before the pandemic, the playing field has been increasingly tilted to favor massive companies over small businesses.
  • As businesses hope for a brighter 2021, the US needs to make changes that allow small businesses to actually compete with the Amazons and Walmarts of the world. 
  • "The word recovery implies that we're going to recover them back to where they were," said Luz Urrutia, CEO of Opportunity Fund. "Where people of color, minority, immigrant, and women-owned businesses were was not a good place."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

2020 was a horrifying year to be a small business owner. Yet, for some of the biggest companies in the US, the pandemic has been a financial boon, as companies like Amazon and Walmart bring in billions. 

For small businesses that manage to make it through the current public health and economic crisis, the pandemic needs to be a wake up call. The current playing field is tilted to support mega-companies over small business owners. In a crisis, this playing field becomes more uneven - but, even in brighter economic times, the inequality remains. 

It is too late to save the thousands of businesses lost during the pandemic. But, we need to act now if we want to prevent a vicious cycle that requires sacrificing a dwindling number of small businesses from continuing far beyond 2020. 

Read more: McDonald's investor explains why he and others are calling for the resignation of the fast-food giant's chairman

Small businesses are feeling the pain

NYC coronavirus Manhattan restaurants small business closures
Restaurants in New York temporarily closed in April. Some never reopened.

The pandemic has been an apocalyptic event for small businesses. The number of small businesses in the US has dropped by 29% since January and revenue has plunged by 31.9% over the same period. 

But, theses closures are not an inevitable side effect of the pandemic. Instead, it is an acceleration of what has been happening for decades - big businesses consuming more of the pie, while small businesses fight over an ever-shrinking mound of scraps. 

In 2000, 15% to 20% of small companies became medium or large companies every year, business professors Vijay Govindarajan and Anup Srivastava reported in Harvard Business Review. By 2017, that figure had been slashed by half. 

"Going into the pandemic, I have never seen the playing field more tilted" to the advantage of a handful of big businesses, Moody's analyst Charlie O'Shea told Business Insider. 

"If you don't have the bucks, you can't make the investments and you can't compete on a level playing field," O'Shea said. 

Prior to the pandemic, roughly half of small businesses only had enough cash to stay in business for 27 days if they stopped bringing in money, according to a JPMorgan Chase Institute analysis. A quarter had a cash buffer that would last them fewer than 13 days. 

The pandemic put these cash buffers to the test. And more than 163,700 businesses failed that test, according to a September Yelp report, shutting down amidst financial hardship.

Big business got bigger in the pandemic 

Amazon HQ2 headquarters New York City canceled amazno
Amazon is thriving during the pandemic.

The fact that the largest companies in America thrived in a year marred by pandemic is an uncomfortable reality of 2020. The S&P 500 is up nearly 16% in 2020. Amazon shares are up 73%, Walmart's shares increased by 22%, and McDonald's are up 7%. 

"We've used the term retail Darwinism for a few years now," O'Shea said. "It's just crystallized during the pandemic." 

Meanwhile, half of small business owners say that they will be forced to close if current business conditions continue for more than a year, according to a MetLife & US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index survey released in mid-December. 

"People were in total shock" when the pandemic began, said Luz Urrutia, CEO of the small-business lender Opportunity Fund. "Small business owners were at home [asking] what do we do now? What happens? This is our lives, this is our livelihoods. This is our family."

The situation is even more dire for entrepreneurs of color.

Beyond the disproportionate health impacts of the pandemic, 41% of minority-owned small businesses are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their business compared to 31% of non-minority owner businesses. 39% of minority-owned small businesses are very concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their mental health, versus 23% of non-minority-owned businesses. 

"Investors believe that the large companies are at least as better off as at the start of this year," Govindarajan and Srivastava said in an email. "The same cannot be said about the small and medium enterprises. Many are not sure whether and when they would be able to resume their business, if at all." 

Why Big Business is thriving

walmart new test stores
Walmart's business is booming in 2020.

Experts say that there are three major reasons why big businesses are breaking financial records while small businesses flounder during the pandemic: financial positioning, lobbying power, and tech investments. 

Curbside pickup and mobile apps have been boons for fast-food chains like McDonald's. The ability to quickly and reliably ship online orders is increasingly crucial, boosting sales at companies like Amazon and Walmart that have invested in tech and logistics. This advantage was especially important this holiday season, when e-commerce made up 19.7% of overall shopping, compared to roughly 13.4% in 2019, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. 

In some ways, big businesses have been able to thrive simply because they can give customers whatever they want to buy, cheaper and quicker than the competition. 

But, blaming customers' choices for small businesses' demise ignores two of major factors - their cozy relationships with the government and financial institutions.

An Associated Press analysis found that bigger businesses disproportionately received Paycheck Protection Program companies first, thanks to pre-existing relationships with banks. Govindarajan and Srivastava say that larger companies' superior lobbying power historically helps them get subsidies and concessions during economic downturns. Small business advocates argue this has continued during the pandemic, with aid shaped by massive companies' desires.  

"A lot of people in Congress say they are pro-business, but what they really mean is pro-big business," Bharat Ramamurti, the managing director of the corporate power research program at think tank Roosevelt Institute, told Vox.

Saying Americans simply prefer Walmart or Amazon also erases that for many customers, where they shop isn't a choice as much as it is a necessity. 

"I think many consumers would like to support their local establishments, where they have relationships, where they have a history, but that only goes so far as your wallet [or] your pocketbook will carry you," former Sears executive and Columbia Business School professor Mark Cohen said.

America is stuck in a vicious cycle

Small business owner
The gap between big and small businesses is growing.

Americans have seen what the big business boom looks like - and it's not good. While individuals might get better benefits working at a bigger company or lower prices in chains' stores, the tilted playing field between big and small businesses has concrete, negative effects on the nation.

Entrepreneurship, along with homeownership, is one of the most prominent ways for Americans to build wealth, according to Urrutia. But, small businesses are making up less and less of the economy. It is increasingly challenging for these companies to compete. As small businesses vanish, it leaves many people of color - already with less generational wealth than white families - with one fewer option to build wealth. 

The trend favoring big businesses coincides with a widening gap between the rich and poor in the US. 

Income has stagnated for most workers in recent decades when adjusted for inflation, despite net productivity growing by 70% since the early '70s. Income inequality has increased steadily since the 1980s, according to US Census data. The 1% now controls about 37% of the wealth in the US, nearing Gilded Age highs. 

Customers shop at companies like Amazon, Walmart, and McDonald's that offer lower prices and convenience because it is what they can afford. Big business puts small business out of business with its superior deals. As a result, it becomes harder for the average entrepreneur to start and maintain a new mom-and-pop shop and build wealth.

It's a vicious cycle that has continued for years. The pandemic only made an existing problem even worse. 

The pandemic forced the broken system into the spotlight

small business reopen reopening
The "new normal" needs to better support small businesses.

Cohen and other experts argue that the system needs to right itself, or the American economy will simply cease to function.

The US will not recover economically, according to Cohen, until people are employed and have disposable income. That requires healthy small businesses. So, Cohen believes, political and corporate leadership will finally take the steps to make that happen.

"We're in for a whole lot more pain and suffering than we've seen," Cohen said. "But in the longer term, I really have an abiding belief in the power of the crowd to lift itself out of the muck. We have the opportunity to do that, by exercising a belief, wisdom, ambition."

Experts offer an arsenal of options for how small businesses can be allowed to compete more fairly with the Amazons of the world and give Americans the financial flexibility to support small businesses.

Cohen emphasized the importance of new government policies, such as higher minimum wage and tax reform. Urrutia sees expanding small businesses' access to capital, as well as services such as advertising and technology, as key. 

"I don't like to use the word recovery because the word recovery implies that we're going to recover them back to where they were," Urrutia said. "Where people of color, minority, immigrant, and women-owned businesses were was not a good place. It was not a solid foundation."

"I talk about reversing, rebuilding and regenerating," Urrutia continued. "We don't want them to recover to where they were before."

Read the original article on Business Insider

McDonald’s Travis Scott collaboration unleashed a new era of celebrity menu items – with one specific twist in common

Travis Scott
Travis Scott's partnership with McDonald's was a home run for the fast-food giant.

McDonald's struck gold when the fast-food giant teamed up with Travis Scott earlier this year. 

The "Travis Scott Meal" was so successful that some locations ran out of Quarter Pounder ingredients, something that had not happened when meatpacking plants shuttered earlier in the pandemic. Scott's line of merchandise swiftly sold out. Analysts applauded the deal, which helped McDonald's reach Gen Z customers. 

Read more: McDonald's is the chain most likely to thrive in the months and years to come as restaurants scramble to recover from the pandemic, analysts say

Perhaps the most impressive part of the plan was that it didn't require McDonald's to add a single item to the menu. The so-called "Travis Scott Meal" was a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, and lettuce, medium fries with BBQ Sauce, and a Sprite - all well-known, existing menu items. Yet, Scott's name was enough to make the chain start running out of burgers. 

"His ability to kind of see where culture is going and have a hand in where culture is going is really unique,"  McDonald's Chief Marketing Officer Morgan Flatley told Business Insider in September. "Then you couple that with his huge followership and his fans, social-media footprint, and ... 3 billion streams. He just has an incredible audience." 

McDonald's partnership with Scott paved the way for a new type of celebrity-inspired menu item, both at McDonald's and other chains, including Chipotle and Dunkin'. 

Why the new celebrity menu item makes sense in 2020

j balvin
McDonald's continued its run of celebrity partnerships with J Balvin.

Many restaurants pared down their menus in 2020, with McDonald's among the chains that cut less popular items like salads and grilled chicken from the menu. During the pandemic, chains' drive-thru business was more important than ever. Having fewer menu items available helps speed up service and makes operations easier for workers.  

At the same time, new and limited-time offerings create buzz and a sense of urgency among potential customers. When a new item hits menus, it helps make the chain feel more relevant. And, if the menu item is only going to be there for a few months, it helps convince people that now is the time to visit. 

The new era of celebrity menu items, such as the Travis Scott Meal, allows chains to harness the buzz of a new menu item without actually adding anything to menu. 

McDonald's followed up its partnership with Scott with a collaboration with reggaeton star J Balvin. According to Flatley, McDonald's wanted to work with stars like Scott to win over younger customers. According to Flatley, people under the age of 34 are "becoming more and more challenging for brands to reach."

"How they engage with media is different," Flatley said. "They look to recommendations much more than any other generation has. They're very reliant on social media. They're very reliant on their friends." 

'The Charli' cold brew and the 'Guac is extra but so is Miley burrito'

Dunkin and Charli D'Amelio
Dunkin' teamed up with TikTok star Charli D'Amelio.

McDonald's isn't alone in rolling out celebrity menu items in 2020. 

In December, Chipotle rolled out its own celebrity menu item inspired by singer Miley Cyrus. The dish was called the "Guac is extra but so is Miley burrito" - and, of course, only used ingredients already found at Chipotle. Chipotle previously launched a challenge on TikTok in November, in which three winners had their orders added to the app as official menu items.

Dunkin' debuted The Charli, named after TikTok star Charli D'Amelio, in September. The cold brew beverage only used ingredients that were already available at the chain. However, it still drove a 57% increase in app downloads compared to the previous 90 days and significantly boosted cold brew sales, according to UBS. 

"Certainly, the drink had a lot of popularity with Gen Z, which obviously is super important," Drayton Martin, Dunkin's vice president of brand stewardship, recently told Business Insider. "You need to continue to bring younger people into the brand family if you want to stay healthy."

"Also, the younger generations are actually bellwethers that then cascade to the loser Gen Xers who are still desperately clinging onto coolness - not that I'm describing myself or anything," Martin added. 

Martin said that Dunkin' is always scheming and playing around with different options as it considers future partnerships. Like Flatley at McDonald's, she said that Dunkin' only wants to team up with celebrities that are genuinely fans of the brand - though that is only the first of many considerations. 

"Will this help with that aspiration of: 'Wow, I didn't expect this from Dunkin'?" Martin said. "Obviously, [we consider if we] can we punch above our weight in terms of earned media? Is it interesting? Is there a story here? All of those are factors that go into it."

Read the full story of Dunkin' stole Starbucks' crown as king of social media in 2020 here. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

McDonald’s Travis Scott collaboration unleashed a new era of celebrity menu items – with one specific twist in common

Travis Scott
Travis Scott's partnership with McDonald's was a home run for the fast-food giant.

McDonald's struck gold when the fast-food giant teamed up with Travis Scott earlier this year. 

The "Travis Scott Meal" was so successful that some locations ran out of Quarter Pounder ingredients, something that had not happened when meatpacking plants shuttered earlier in the pandemic. Scott's line of merchandise swiftly sold out. Analysts applauded the deal, which helped McDonald's reach Gen Z customers. 

Read more: McDonald's is the chain most likely to thrive in the months and years to come as restaurants scramble to recover from the pandemic, analysts say

Perhaps the most impressive part of the plan was that it didn't require McDonald's to add a single item to the menu. The so-called "Travis Scott Meal" was a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, and lettuce, medium fries with BBQ Sauce, and a Sprite - all well-known, existing menu items. Yet, Scott's name was enough to make the chain start running out of burgers. 

"His ability to kind of see where culture is going and have a hand in where culture is going is really unique,"  McDonald's Chief Marketing Officer Morgan Flatley told Business Insider in September. "Then you couple that with his huge followership and his fans, social-media footprint, and ... 3 billion streams. He just has an incredible audience." 

McDonald's partnership with Scott paved the way for a new type of celebrity-inspired menu item, both at McDonald's and other chains, including Chipotle and Dunkin'. 

Why the new celebrity menu item makes sense in 2020

j balvin
McDonald's continued its run of celebrity partnerships with J Balvin.

Many restaurants pared down their menus in 2020, with McDonald's among the chains that cut less popular items like salads and grilled chicken from the menu. During the pandemic, chains' drive-thru business was more important than ever. Having fewer menu items available helps speed up service and makes operations easier for workers.  

At the same time, new and limited-time offerings create buzz and a sense of urgency among potential customers. When a new item hits menus, it helps make the chain feel more relevant. And, if the menu item is only going to be there for a few months, it helps convince people that now is the time to visit. 

The new era of celebrity menu items, such as the Travis Scott Meal, allows chains to harness the buzz of a new menu item without actually adding anything to menu. 

McDonald's followed up its partnership with Scott with a collaboration with reggaeton star J Balvin. According to Flatley, McDonald's wanted to work with stars like Scott to win over younger customers. According to Flatley, people under the age of 34 are "becoming more and more challenging for brands to reach."

"How they engage with media is different," Flatley said. "They look to recommendations much more than any other generation has. They're very reliant on social media. They're very reliant on their friends." 

'The Charli' cold brew and the 'Guac is extra but so is Miley burrito'

Dunkin and Charli D'Amelio
Dunkin' teamed up with TikTok star Charli D'Amelio.

McDonald's isn't alone in rolling out celebrity menu items in 2020. 

In December, Chipotle rolled out its own celebrity menu item inspired by singer Miley Cyrus. The dish was called the "Guac is extra but so is Miley burrito" - and, of course, only used ingredients already found at Chipotle. Chipotle previously launched a challenge on TikTok in November, in which three winners had their orders added to the app as official menu items.

Dunkin' debuted The Charli, named after TikTok star Charli D'Amelio, in September. The cold brew beverage only used ingredients that were already available at the chain. However, it still drove a 57% increase in app downloads compared to the previous 90 days and significantly boosted cold brew sales, according to UBS. 

"Certainly, the drink had a lot of popularity with Gen Z, which obviously is super important," Drayton Martin, Dunkin's vice president of brand stewardship, recently told Business Insider. "You need to continue to bring younger people into the brand family if you want to stay healthy."

"Also, the younger generations are actually bellwethers that then cascade to the loser Gen Xers who are still desperately clinging onto coolness - not that I'm describing myself or anything," Martin added. 

Martin said that Dunkin' is always scheming and playing around with different options as it considers future partnerships. Like Flatley at McDonald's, she said that Dunkin' only wants to team up with celebrities that are genuinely fans of the brand - though that is only the first of many considerations. 

"Will this help with that aspiration of: 'Wow, I didn't expect this from Dunkin'?" Martin said. "Obviously, [we consider if we] can we punch above our weight in terms of earned media? Is it interesting? Is there a story here? All of those are factors that go into it."

Read the full story of Dunkin' stole Starbucks' crown as king of social media in 2020 here. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

How Ben Affleck became an accidental Dunkin’ influencer

ben affleck dunkin
Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas take a stroll, with a cup of Dunkin' iced coffee, in July.
  • Ben Affleck's love for Dunkin' proved a constant through the unpredictable and stressful 2020. 
  • The actor appeared in countless paparazzi photos with his trusty Dunkin' iced coffee at his side, cementing the connection between him and the iconic coffee chain. 
  • Drayton Martin, Dunkin's vice president of brand stewardship, told Business Insider that the chain does not have any official partnership with Affleck, calling him a "true lover of the brand." 
  • Instead, Ben Affleck seems to have become an accidental Dunkin' influencer, lighting up the internet with his genuine love for the coffee chain. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In a year of uncertainty and stress, there has been one constant: Ben Affleck's love for Dunkin'. 

Affleck, who claims to drink Dunkin' every day, has had two constant partners during the pandemic: his girlfriend and fellow actor Ana de Armas, and a cup of Dunkin' iced coffee. As many celebrities stayed out of sight, Affleck appeared in countless paparazzi photos with his trusty Dunkin' at his side.

The final days of 2020 brought one last Affleck-Dunkin' sighting. Paparazzi caught Affleck, decked out in Boston gear, fumbling an order of iced coffees and Munchkins on the doorstep of his California home. The photos went viral, as photos of Affleck and Dunkin' are wont to do. 

 

"Ben Affleck is a pap favorite," Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber, hosts of the celebrity podcast Who Weekly, told Business Insider in an email. According to the hosts, Affleck is known for just being himself, "a dude from Boston." 

"And aside from the Red Sox and clam chowder, Dunkin' Donuts is as Boston as it gets," Finger and Weber added. 

Affleck's appreciation for Dunkin' isn't new. But, over the last few years, his love for the chain has transcended from a quirky talk show talking point to a sort of cultural touchstone. 

ana de armas and ben affleck
Affleck and de Armas in April.
 When Dunkin' announced it was closing locations earlier this year, Jezebel asked: "What Does Ben Affleck Think About Dunkin Donuts Closing 450 Stores?"

A social media rumor sparked a Vulture investigation into if Dunkin' keeps Affleck's order on file. (Conclusion: Dunkin' says no, so, probably not?)

Affleck's love for Dunkin' has spawned endless tweets, further linking the actor and the chain.

Carrie Wittmer, a freelance writer who has tweeted about Affleck and Dunkin' with some frequency, said she thinks of Affleck as an accidental Dunkin' influencer. 

"I have always been a Dunkin' Donuts coffee fan," Wittmer said. "My parents are coffee snobs and Dunkin' was one of the only fast food places they got coffee from and I usually have Dunkin' coffee for my home brew."

But, Wittmer said, Affleck has made her think about Dunkin' even more than usual this year. 

As Affleck's paparazzi shots with Dunkin' proliferate, they have sparked questions regarding Affleck's relationship with the chain. After all, Dunkin' has rolled out some wild marketing in 2020, from a partnership with Homesick candles to a merch lineup that includes bedding and scrunchies. A sponsorship deal with Ben Affleck would not be out of the realm of possibility. 

Read more: How Dunkin' stole Starbucks' crown as king of social media in 2020 using TikTok stars, purple drinks, and coffee-scented candles

Is Affleck getting paid by the coffee chain as part of a stealth sponsorship deal? Or, does he just really love Dunkin'?  

Is Dunkin' paying Ben Affleck to drink coffee? 

ben affleck dunkin ana de armas
Affleck and his Dunkin' order in April.

We needed answers from Dunkin', both about Affleck and some of the chain's official marketing strategies. (Again, Dunkin' successfully launched a $34 Homesick candle that smelled like coffee.) So, earlier in December, Business Insider spoke with Drayton Martin, Dunkin's vice president of brand stewardship. 

Martin had a lot to say about Dunkin's partnerships and marketing strategies, as the chain has worked to puncture potential customers' perceptions of the brand. Dunkin' has partnered with a number of celebrities, including rapper Snoop Dogg and TikTok star Charli D'Amelio. But, Martin said, it does not have any official partnership with Affleck.  

"He is a true lover of the brand and it is all his spontaneous expression," Martin said.

"We love Ben Affleck. ... He's obviously from the Boston area and a terrific brand ambassador, but that's his own doing," she added. 

ben affleck dunkin
Affleck in March.

Martin's answer lines up with Weber and Finger's conclusion that "Ben just genuinely has gotta have his Dunkies."

"If it's all some sort of covert paid sponsorship, congrats to Ben," they said. "But if there's anything to know about doing ads, it's that it's basically work and work tends to ruin things you love! It appears that Ben truly still loves his java." 

In other words, Affleck's Dunkin' obsession has become the best kind of free advertising. It is coming from someone that genuinely loves the brand, with a passion that won't be tarnished by a paycheck. As a frequent paparazzi target, Affleck gives Dunkin' more face time than celebrities who avoid photographers (or, who are more low key about their love for Dunkin'.)

Anecdotally, it's a relationship that is paying off for Dunkin'. Finger said he has found himself craving Dunkin' after seeing yet another paparazzi shot of Affleck with his iced coffee. (Weber said she is always craving Dunkin'.) And, while Whittmer said she would have bought the Dunkin' Homesick candle without Affleck's influence, the Affleck-Dunkin' connection has made her appreciate both more in 2020. 

"I have always loved both, but I have never thought more about either," Whittmer said. 

Read the full story of how Dunkin' stole Starbucks' crown as king of social media in 2020 here. 

Read the original article on Business Insider