Arby’s Still Going Big with Beef
By Troy Smith
Jim Taylor can’t imagine a world without beef. For without beef, there would be no cattle. There would be no cowboys or cowboy movies; no Marlon Brando or Elvis in leather jackets. There would be no steak houses. Certainly, there would be no Arby’s.
That’s a scary thought for Jim Taylor, who is the chief marketing officer for Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc., the Georgia-based company whose advertisements claim, “We’ve got the meats!” Taylor expressed his gratitude for beef and beef producers when he addressed a Cattlemen’s College session Jan. 31 during the 2018 Cattle Industry Convention in Phoenix, Ariz.
Taylor said the restaurant business shares some of the same challenges as beef producers, such as rising input costs, unfriendly legislation and even disagreeable weather. He also said that, like many cattle operations, Arby’s marketing success has resulted from differentiating itself from the competition.
It began in 1964 when brothers Forrest and Leroy Raffel saw opportunity in a fast-food business based on something other than burgers. The founders founded the restaurant chain on big, meaty roast beef sandwiches. Subsequent owners have expanded the menu for the company’s 3,300 stores, but beef remains a mainstay. Arby’s markets more than 130 million pounds of beef per year.
According to Taylor, innovation has been a key element in differentiating Arby’s, with its Curly Fries and Jamoca Shakes being some of the first points of difference. Others have included variations on the roast beef sandwich and, more recently, sandwiches featuring steak and brisket. One hundred new products have been launched over the last five years.
Saying the Arby’s offering is “a little more expensive, but still affordable” and “not the fastest, but still fast,” Taylor explained how the company stresses customer service and marketing to a target audience — that segment of consumers that can drive significant growth.
“We’ve defined our target as proud American carnivores,” grinned Taylor, noting the firm’s use of humorous advertising that still conveys values it shares with middle America.
“We are serious about what we do, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he added.
Taylor said the use of humor is one way that Arby’s is continually refining how it communicates with current and prospective customers. Additionally, he said the company is always looking for ways it can add value holistically, beyond just the product. The company is willing to take a few risks.
“We take some heat for making fun of vegetarians,” said Taylor, referring to advertisements aiming jibes at people who shun meat. “But think about it. Those people eat our food’s food.”
In closing, Taylor noted how the Arby’s menu offers alternative meats, too, but promised that beef will remain as its “heart and soul.” The company expects to introduce ethnic items to its offering and is looking for ways to use more beef cuts.
“The American consumer’s appetite for beef has never been bigger,” stated Taylor. “We will continue to push the envelope on ways America can enjoy beef.”
Editor’s Note: Troy Smith is a freelance writer and cattleman from Sargent, Neb.. This article was written as part of Angus Media’s coverage of the 2018 Cattle Industry Convention in Phoenix, Ariz. Jan. 29-Feb. 2. See additional coverage in future issues and online at www.angus.org.