What is in this article?:
Some pressing questions were answered during the course of 2012: President Barack Obama was re-elected, and the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
But much continued to remain in limbo, with many operators uncertain about the actual impact of heath care reform — and the looming fiscal cliff — on business. Mother nature added to that uncertainty, as drought continued to wipe out crops, raising commodity costs, and restaurants on the East Coast were devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
Through the chaos, though, many chains continued to roll out new menu items and marketing campaigns, and some major restaurant acquisitions occurred.
Here's a look at how these events and others affecting the restaurant industry played out over the course of the year.
Taco Bell kicked off a busy year in January when it commenced the long-anticipated rollout of its breakfast platform, “First Meal.” The brand’s ambitious morning menu featured 11 new items including four types of burritos, a sausage and egg wrap, a grilled item similar to the Crunchwrap Supreme, a crispy hash brown patty, and Cinnabon Delights. The Irvine, Calif.-based chain also began testing its new Cantina menu, which includes several higher quality options developed together with Lorena Garcia. Later in the year Taco Bell debuted its Doritos Locos Tacos, which features a shell made of nacho cheese-flavored Doritos.
Landry’s Inc. continued a buying spree in 2012, as reflected in the purchase of McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants Inc., in January and Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc., in February. Landry’s acquired the 80-unit seafood specialist for $131.6 million and then purchased the 70-unit luxury steakhouse chain for $116.6 million a month or so later. In February Landry’s also announced a $60 million development on the Pleasure Pier in Galveston Island, Texas. Landry’s also owns Rainforest Café, Saltgrass Steak House, Claim Jumper, Oceanaire and The Chart House.
A research note penned in February by Sara Senatore, securities analyst for Bernstein Research, declared that rapidly growing India could soon surpass China as the top overseas market for Western QSR chains — a trend reflected in strategic moves by several major U.S. restaurant brands. McDonald’s and Yum! Brands said they would intensify their expansion throughout the subcontinent, while Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts revealed plans to open their first locations there later in the year. Meanwhile, Baskin-Robbins, Domino’s Pizza and Subway continued to deepen their roots in India. Subway opened four strictly vegetarian outlets this year and McDonald’s also announced its intention to explore all-vegetarian locations there.
In March McDonald’s announced the June 30 retirement of longtime executive Jim Skinner (pictured right) from his posts as vice chairman and chief executive of the Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain. Skinner, who had been with McDonald’s for 41 years and served as CEO since 2004, was succeeded by the chain’s current president and chief operating officer Don Thompson. Skinner took the reins following the deaths of two predecessors, Charlie Bell and Jim Cantalupo. During his tenure McDonald’s implemented its Plan to Win, which has been credited with turning around sales and establishing McDonald’s as one of the most successful restaurant chains in the world. The company would slip later in 2012 when global economic headwinds impacted monthly same-store sales, which fell 1.8 percent in October — the first decrease since April 2003.