I pay little attention to the world of fast food, especially since I rarely eat it. Recently, I recently learned that Arby’s has a slogan: “We Have the Meats”. Understandably, it’s the kind of slogan that begs for criticism, especially from within the the vegetarian and vegan communities. From what I heard, coinciding with Arby’s limited release of its Brown Sugar Maple Bacon and criticism of its choice of slogan, Arby’s decided to reach out to the herbivores among us:
We respect you. We respect your life decisions. With that in mind, we want it to be abundantly clear that this letter is not meant to sway or convert you. We’re sharing this to offer our support.
Nearly a year ago, we embarked on a journey to tell America about our meats. By now, you’ve likely heard the Arby’s tagline: We Have The Meats®. It’s tough to hear, but it is what it is. We have many meats. And we have quality meats.
It is understandable that you disapprove of our meat-bravado. Your voices have been heard. Letters, emails, voicemails, Tweets and Facebook comments – we hear you. We love our meats, but realize they’re not for everyone.
Then on Sunday, June 28, we launched a meat innovation that has likely tempted you: Brown Sugar Bacon. It’s our pepper bacon, glazed in-restaurant with brown sugar and then cooked to perfection. It may be hard to resist…even for you. Hardcore vegetarians likely won’t budge, but for those of you who are on the fringe or new to the game, avoidance can’t be easy.
We, at Arby’s, have created this temptation. So, we’d like to help.
We’re giving you a number to call: 1-855-MEAT-HLP. This is a Vegetarian Support Hotline. When your nose betrays you and alerts the rest of your senses to find and devour this sweet meat, please call 1-855-MEAT-HLP. You will receive the support you need to resist this gateway meat and get tips on how to avoid temptation. Delicious. Sizzling. Temptation.
Be strong. We’re here for you.
While I don’t approve of a company doing something like this, nor is this they way that I would have addressed the issue, I admit to getting a bit of a kick out of this if only for one reason. Arby’s is a fast food company. Fast food companies make their money by generating as much sales volume from as many people as possible. Maintaining a high customer base means not overtly pissing off several million people. Yet, this is exactly what Arby’s did. Crudely put, not only did Arby’s deliberately potentially troll several million people, but also the company told them in as nice a way as possible, both literally and figuratively, to eat its meat.
I read a few responses to this from the vegetarian/vegan community, and, predictably, they were none too pleased. To conclude this post, I’ll briefly respond to a paragraph from a post published at the Huffington Post with the Captain Obvious title “Thanks But No Thanks, Arby’s: Vegetarians Don’t Want Your Meat”:
You may have chosen to target vegetarians in your latest advertising stunt because you’re scared of us and our growing power as consumers. I don’t blame you. The number of vegetarians and vegans in America is skyrocketing while meat consumption has dropped significantly over the past several years. Nasdaq.com recently warned investors of the impending “death of meat.” The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee–a panel of our country’s foremost nutrition experts–recommends Americans cut back on animal products or cut them out completely, as does the United Nations.
I can’t say for sure whether or not the people in Nathan’s community have had any significant impact on the fast food industry as a whole, but in the specific case of Arby’s, the numbers don’t lie: 18 quarters straight of positive same store sales growth and 9.4% same store sales growth as of the first quarter of this year. By comparison, that’s pretty damn good compared to the rest of the industry.
So despite there being a “skyrocketing number of vegans and vegetarians” (according to the Vegetarian Times, the combined total is approximately 3.2% of the U.S adult population (7.3 million), declining meat consumption, a lone investment advisor predicting the “death of meat” on the basis of a draft of proposed dietary guidelines and the expert nutrition recommendations that our society has loyally followed as evidenced by a healthy non-obese population, Arby’s has one of the strongest sales metrics in the industry and has consistently grown it’s business over the last 18 quarters.
Yet Arby’s targeted vegetarians because the company is scared of them? This is as idiotic as a CrossFitter saying that a strength coach is scared of CrossFit because the coach criticizes high-rep Olympic Lifting. No. Arby’s targeted vegetarians and mocked them because the company can afford to get away it. I don’t have access to data but based on what I know and have experienced with vegetarians and vegans, my guess is that they would represent a very small percentage of the customer base and an even smaller percentage of revenues. My guess is that Arby’s will generate enough publicity to boost sales to make up for the difference, and it won’t take much to get there.
While I personally wouldn’t do what Arby’s did, at the very least, I’ll give the company kudos for putting the money where the mouth is to prove that point. After all, the strategy could backfire…maybe.