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Quick — when you think of Arby's, do you think of seasoned curly fries or turkey sandwiches?
The fast food chain, born in 1964 in roast beef sandwich and sweet-tea loving Ohio, is hoping to have it both ways. This weekend, it launched a new ad campaign focused on its lower calorie, freshly-sliced turkey sandwiches (think competition for the Subway chain) and a sleeker, more modern logo.
"We see ourselves as a sandwich shop, but we don't always get credit for that from the consumer," Andrew Keller, chief executive officer at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the agency behind the new ad, tells Bloomberg.
And yet Arby's Twitter feed is full of homages to one of the chains' biggest claim to fame — its curly fries.
Arby's has just about 3,500 restaurants globally, compared with Subway's 34,000, according to Bloomberg. And the chain's gotten low ranks for its food in a couple of big diner surveys, including this one from Consumer Reports last year. So it was ready to make some changes.
One of the changes was to the logo. While the iconic ten-gallon hat remains, the font that sits on the brim is now smaller and more modern-looking, sporting a deeper shade of red.
Over at the branding blog, Brand New, they're lamenting the change:
"The Arby's giant hat logo is one of the most fun fast food chain logos: oversize and over-Western'd without any excuses. Their classic road signs, sadly less common now, are always a sight to behold. Even what looks like cheesy typography is a very nice, condensed bit of slab serif that filled in the hat properly. The new logo retains the hat shape, along with some unfortunate 3D extrusion, but replaces the typography with some flavorless, sans serif with a lowercase 'a' and the sharpest, biggest (and is that shiniest?) apostrophe that no logo ever needed."
As part of its makeover efforts, Arby's plans to add as many as 12 new products this year, Chief Marketing Officer Russ Klein says. The chain introduced hot turkey sandwiches this month and plans to branch out widely, perhaps to a peppermint milk shake, a molten lava cake and miniature sandwiches, he tells Bloomberg.
Also, to attract new customers, the company is planning a $12 million renovation of some of its restaurants by the end of the year, Klein says.
Arby's is far from alone in giving itself a middle-aged makeover. As MSNBC reports, times are changing for the fast food business as the foodservice market is expected to grow slowly in the coming years. Plus the Chipotle and Subway chains are encroaching on the traditional fast food outlets' territory with fresher, healthier food options.
McDonald's is touting real fruit smoothies, Burger King is advertising fresh vegetables, and Wendy's is promoting "natural lemonade" as part of their efforts to jump on the "freshness" brand wagon, a key buzzword in restaurants for the last decade, according to Restaurant News.
"It's going to be a real battle for market share," Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst, tells MSNBC.