When fast food operations were first set up, their two key order winners were cost (low selling price) and speed (a meal in less than 90 seconds). To achieve these two OWs, flexibility was sacrificed – there was a limited menu, rigid production systems, and minimal range of inventory items.
But over time new operators came into the market offering flexibility. The coffee chains, like Starbucks, make their coffees to the customers’ specification. Sandwich stores, like Subway, also customise their output. So the fast food chains have responded to this, but not openly – in ‘secret’. All of them now make it possible for a customer to have a customised product, they just do not advertise the fact. To get some idea of this, just visit hackthemenu.com. Many of these secret menu items were requested by customers, who then spread the word via social media. But in some cases the operators themselves create menu items, for customers “in the know”.
This is an interesting example of how order winners change over time, and how there are different order winners for different market segments. In this instance, fast food flexibility is only being provided to those customers who are proactively seeking it. And to be honest, you can see why the chains might be reluctant to openly advertise some of the secret items. For instance, take a look at the McDonalds ‘Land, sea and air burger”, which combines beef, fish and chicken in one bun….