With a tough economy and a foodservice market that is growing at around 3% per year, it’s little wonder that competition is forcing some operators to take a look at their new competitors. The market size pie has remained relatively stagnant, yet analysts, stockholders and boards still expect growth, all of which means competition in foodservice is much more focused on stealing share from others, rather than reaching out to new consumers.

Consider the dynamics at play with recent menu developments:

Pizza Hut launched the P’Zolo in late May/early June, a product designed to take on sandwich giant, Subway.

Subway introduced Angus Melt sandwiches in mid-July in select markets. The three-item line features Classic Angus Melt, Monterey Cheddar Ranch Angus, and Spicy Chipotle Angus Melt and represents the sandwich chain’s answer to burger concepts. Subway has been joined by another sandwich maker, Au Bon Pain, in featuring Angus on its menu.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s and other burger concepts have made greater commitments to chicken with recent menu development, promotions and tests. After introducing its Chicken McBites earlier this year, McDonald’s is now testing wings in the Atlanta market. Other burger concepts like Burger King, Sonic and Jack in the Box have either revamped or introduced new chicken menu offerings, from bites to sandwiches and beyond.

Not to be outdone, KFC has launched chicken sandwiches in the UK and Australia markets, with the full expectation that these items eventually will make their way over to the U.S., where they’ll compete more directly with the burger chains.

How are crossover menus affecting comptition in the foodservice industry?

It’s impossible to see this sort of menu mimicking ending anytime soon. Restaurant operators are doing all that they can to get customers into their doors; more often, that now includes offering items that borrow not only from other restaurant concepts, but also other cuisines.

One of the dangers of this crossover approach to menu development is that restaurant menus will soon look even more alike than they do today, even blurring lines across cuisine categories. In that case, the restaurants more likely to succeed will be those that feature unique, non-duplicated menus offerings.

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