If you want to keep up with an industry, such as fast food (er... "quick-serve restaurants," as the industry dubs itself), the 21st century offers you a new option, besides valuable company reports and traditional media coverage: blogs.
One blog I enjoy is Fast Food News. Here's a roundup of some of its latest stories (and my comments):
- Do you think McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) is the most ubiquitous food chain in the U.S.? Nope: Subway has more than 20,000 locations, compared to more than 13,000 for McDonald's. Meanwhile, Panera (Nasdaq: PNRA ) , Sbarro, and Panda Express have crossed the 1,000-unit mark.
You might think small chains would be better investments because they have more room to grow, but they also have their own troubles. So don't discount the biggies -- McDonald's operating margins have risen steadily to roughly 23% in the past few years, and Panera's have slipped to the low teens.
- Wendy's (NYSE: WEN ) -- with more than 6,000 restaurants -- is conceding that simplicity isn't always best. After a decade of offering only chocolate-flavored Frosty treats, it debuted vanilla ones in 2006. And the result? Overall Frosty sales jumped by 60%. On deck is a Frosty milkshake in three flavors, including strawberry. Another possibility is an iced-coffee Frosty, as part of a breakfast menu. Many quick-serve eateries are beefing up their breakfast offerings, competing for available early-morning dollars.
- Yum! Brands' (NYSE: YUM ) Pizza Hut property has unveiled a new menu selection -- the Double Deep Meat Lover's Pizza. A single slice has two grams of fiber, only three grams of sugar, and 31 grams of protein. Sound good? But wait! There are 580 calories, 36 grams of fat, and nearly 2,000 mg of sodium. Yikes. Worse is Quizno'S large Tuna Melt with cheese and dressing, which has more than 2,000 calories, 175 grams of fat, and nearly 2,200 mg of sodium.
Menu items like these may reduce the chains' customer base because of fatal heart attacks.