Jack in the Box has launched a new late-night menu that takes direct aim at competitors Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Wendy’s, the company said Thursday.
In what appears to be a direct appeal to the post-party crowd, San Diego-based Jack in the Box Inc. rolled out Jack’s Munchie Meal earlier this month. The four packaged menu options with sides and a drink are available from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and are priced at $6, plus tax, at participating locations.
But it’s not only about the food: Jack in the Box also wants to get the party started at 9 p.m. At that time, the restaurants’ vibe will shift, with late-night-only purple menu boards and new purple-and-black uniforms for staff members.
A late-night playlist of dance and Top 40 music will be played at a louder volume until 5 a.m., when the atmosphere shifts to breakfast service.
“We wanted to create a really fun experience,” said Jennifer Kennedy, Jack in the Box Inc. senior manager of innovation. “We want to be that exclamation point at the end of someone’s night.”
While the majority of Jack in the Box’s 2,250 units are open 24 hours, most late-night business is at the drive thru, and not all of those units keep their dining rooms open all night. However, drive-thru customers will still experience the late-night vibe with the uniform change and pumped-up music, said Kennedy.
Jack in the Box has long promoted its all-day breakfast menu to the after-midnight crowd, but the new Jack’s Munchie Meal targets teens, late workers and partiers looking for something salty, cheesy and filling between dinner and breakfast.
Jack’s Munchie Meal is served in a box with two tacos, “halfsie” fries (half seasoned curly fries and half regular French fries), and a 20-ounce drink, along with a choice of entrees:
•The Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger: A cheeseburger topped with a grilled cheese sandwich made with sourdough bread;
•The Brunch Burger: A burger topped with a fried egg and crispy hash browns;
•The Exploding Cheesy Chicken Sandwich: A chicken sandwich topped with fried mozzarella cheese sticks and gooey white cheese sauce;
•Loaded Chicken Nuggets: Chicken nuggets “drowning” in two kinds of cheese with ranch dressing and bacon.
Customers can purchase entrees separately after 9 p.m. for $4. Halfsies are available at any time for $2.50.
The $6 price point is designed for the value-conscious late-night diner who isn’t necessarily looking at price alone, Kennedy said.
“We know that late-night people want to get a lot of food for a little money,” she said. “They’re looking for an indulgent treat. It’s everything in moderation, but it appeals to a certain Millennial.”
Taking on competitors
Kennedy said it was time for Jack in the Box to “up the ante” on late night because “others were coming into the marketplace and taking our lunch money.”
Taco Bell has long promoted its Fourth Meal offerings, and Wendy’s advertises its late hours at the pickup window. McDonald’s has recently been experimenting with a McDonald’s After Midnight menu of breakfast and dinner items in select markets with 24-hour locations.
For Jack in the Box’s July 7-ended third quarter, late night represented about 16.4 percent of the daypart mix, more than snack, which accounted for 10.3 percent of the mix. However, the late-night daypart was behind dinner, which was 28.1 percent of the mix; lunch, at 23 percent; and breakfast, at 22.2 percent.
The late-night menu was tested at 140 restaurants in the San Francisco and San Jose markets last year for about six months. Kennedy said the company was very pleased with the results.
The late-night menu rolled out in a soft launch systemwide on Sept. 12, with menu board extenders added to promote the menu items. During the day, the extenders show teasers for the late-night menu with messages such as, “The party starts at 9 p.m.”
At the designated hour, employees rotate menu board panels to show the Munchie Meal lineup.
For the first three months or so, staff will wear the late-night uniforms all day to promote the initiative. Later, they will be reserved for staffers working that shift, Kennedy said.
Since late-night guests might be inclined to get up and dance or become rowdy, Kennedy said the company is also offering staffers training to help them manage a livelier scene.
Television ads for the new late-night offerings are scheduled to begin on Sept. 29. They feature Late Night Jack, a “more twisted” puppet version of the Jack character, who plays video games and shows a darker side. Officials say the puppet version of Jack will only appear in late-night ads and that the live Jack character is not going away.
A broader media campaign will launch on Sept. 30. Social media will also help spread the word as guests turn to Twitter, Instagram and other channels to document their late-night Jack in the Box adventures, Kennedy said.