Qdoba is taking a stand, according to its website. The second-stringer Mexican fast-casual chain is doing a crazy -- except more like business savvy -- new promotion involving free queso dip, which is one of the smartest things any chain could do, ever. Yep, Qdoba is giving up up-charging for extra goodies like guacamole, sauces, fajita veggies and both of its hot cheese sauces, offering a flat price per entrée, which means that customers can order burritos smothered in free Queso Diablo -- and Chipotle just got pwned.
Here are five other joints that should take a cue from Qdoba and start giving free extras too. Take a hint, places that aren't Qdoba, because people really like free things, especially hot cheese.
It's no secret that the ice cream versus frozen yogurt debate has fed mouths and pockets alike, but it seems like ice cream might be losing some ground to frozen yogurt, if only because you can throw a flip-flop out any window and hit a dozen froyo shops anywhere. But the majestic proliferation of frozen yogurt does have a pronounced dark side: a lot of stores charge by the pound and charge extra for toppings, which adds up pretty fast when you're trying to create the best hot-fudge-gummy-bear-pineapple sundae. Baskin-Robbins, as the flagship of cold, creamy goodness, should take note and do the niche one better. Give the masses free cookie bits, cheesecake bites and, gasp--free chocolate-dipped sugar cones.
Also, Baskin-Robbins: Pinkberry called and said you have a small d*ck, so give away free third-scoops just to show them.
4. Taco John's
Taco John's may as well be an ice cream shop, since they are freezing to death in Taco Bell's huge-ass shadow every single business day. But the Bell is the juggernaut of Mexican fast food, and Taco John's is allowed to exist only because it has Potato Olés. There are a few things Taco John's could do to get the jump on Taco Bell, including -- but not limited to -- free porn blu-rays with purchases of super burritos, stuffing the churros with diamond rings, and perhaps finding the cojones to stop charging for the extras, so that customers pay the same for bare Potato Olés and the ones slathered with onions, tomatoes, beef, beans and nacho cheese.
You know what's better -- and more customer-grabbing -- than free nacho cheese? Free money, and more free nacho cheese sauce.
Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits always seems to be stuck in a third-place rut behind Church's Chicken (the free pickled jalapenos give Church's the automatic second-place) and the ever-popular but gravy-miserly KFC, because the extra-crispy chicken skin seems to make people crave KFC more than is even normal for fried chicken. Popeye's has one thing going that keeps the chain from being literally forgotten: side dishes. Side dishes like Cajun fries, mac & cheese, bacon-greasy green beans, red beans & rice and mashed potatoes with adequate gravy on them. So what if, just for yucks, Popeye's decided to give out free sides with chicken purchases?
What would happen then? Howza bout "Kentucky Fried Who-whuh?" Also triple gravy will not go unnoticed.
For more restaurants that should pony up freebies, read on.
2. Papa John's Pizza
If there was ever a third-class delivery pizza chain, it's Papa John's. Pizza Hut kicks its ass; Domino's does too (which says a lot, because Domino's pizzas taste like urine-soaked cardboard with some tomato). It would greatly improve PJ's standing in the pizza community to consider giving out some perks to folks who actually order its crackly-crusted pies on the regular. Papa's is known for having the garlic dipping sauce, that liquid methadone dip for pizza crust, so imagine how many more pies would fly out of the stores if they included free pints of garlic sauce.
Yes, pints. Those tiny cups are too small and gallon jugs of melted margarine might be too much, but a free pint per pie is just right.
Funny story -- McDonald's really isn't as popular as it used to be. Okay, that's not really funny, but considering America's number-one fast-food burger chain is getting whupped up on by the fast-casuals, it could be in McDoo's best financial interest to be a little more like fast-cazh and a little less like itself. Consumers who dine out are entranced and even a tad obsessed with chains like Panda Express, Panera Bread, Garbanzo's, Chipotle and Qdoba, to the detriment of fast food, which sadly may have hit its peak and now has to give way to better quality, higher-priced dining options. Simply put, McDonald's is being snubbed for Qdoba and the free queso is burning a hole in the big McPocketbook.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
One way to lure attention back to Quarter Pounders and away from burrito bowls is for McDonald's to help people remember a better time when gas prices were lower, a gallon of milk wasn't inching toward $4, and things like ketchup packets, McNugget sauces and extra lettuce and tomato were freebies. Fast food chains nickel and diming customers keep them afloat, but won't help keep the Titanic from hitting the iceberg at some point.