Fast food outlets and “family style” restaurants are suffering a bit of indigestion. After years of cutting their prices, handing out coupons and creating discounted special menus, they’re having trouble making ends meet, and are trying to lure customers to higher-priced meals. But cash-strapped diners aren’t buying it; they want the cheap stuff, and restaurants aren’t about to say no and risk losing customers to the cheaper eatery next door.
The Wall Street Journal shares the sad tale of Sonic, which has struggled to get customers to spend more money; not even a free side of tater tots with a premium sandwich would lure them away from the cheaper items on the $1 menu. Then there’s Chili’s, which has been trying to have its cake and eat it too, by offering lower-priced specials that consist of less food. The chain has dropped its “3 for $20″ deal, which included two entrees, an appetizer and a dessert (designed to be shared between two customers), and replaced it with a $9.99 offering leaves off the dessert. Chili’s has also introduced a $5.99 burger menu.
There are some chains that haven’t cut prices, according to The Journal. Olive Garden and Red Lobster, both owned by Darden Restaurants, have bucked the trend, and kept prices relatively high. But, they must be worth it, since their chefs go to that fancy cooking school in Italy.