Last week, Jack in the Box announced it was revamping how 29 current menu items are dressed and adding a new burger, the Double Jack. BurgerBusiness.com spoke with Jack in the Box SVP-Chief Marketing Officer Keith Guilbault about those changes and the thinking behind them.
You did research in 2014 that found some customers didn’t consider Jack’s burgers juicy enough. That led to the Buttery Jack burger that you folks introduced a year ago. Why did you do additional research and what were you hoping to learn?
The Buttery Jack was a great example of taking research and then rolling out a new platform of burgers. The way we approached [this research] was, “Let’s continue to roll out great LTOs and platforms but let’s also look at the rest of the menu. Let’s make sure we’re living up to out commitment to make every burger better, and every sandwich better.”
We used the Jumbo Jack as the base product to ask what the right combination of ingredients would be that truly would make this the best burger it can be. We employed a pretty sophisticated process that took account of all the different variables and narrowed it down to what we thought–and what we came up with—was the winning combination. On the burger, is the bun toasted or not? Buttered or not? Do we have the right patty? Should it be seasoned or not? How do you apply the lettuce? So it was a very rigorous process. It took quite some time and we landed on the combination of ingredients that you see now.
But we still wanted to launch [the changes] with a “hero” product, which is the Double Jack. It’s a classic double burger that includes all the new ingredients.
So you were asking whether what consumers want in a burger might be changing?
Yes. We had been seeing research and watching trends and watching the quick-service and fast-casual competition in general and said, “Let’s make sure the products that have been successful for us are the best they can be.” We wanted to look not just at new products but across the menu.
The research was quite comprehensive. It was dozen and dozens of rounds with actual consumers to try to zoom in on creating the right products. And then this past year we were in two markets where we changed all the products to ensure [the changes] truly represented what we found in our research.
You upgraded 29 products. What are the most important changes?
The thing that’s most notable is that we had been using a sesame-seed bun on many of our products since the ’70s. So we have a new buttery bakery bun. It’s new for us; a split–top bun that is buttered. That itself is a pretty significant change for us.
So it’s not the bun you use with the Buttery Jack?
No, it’s a different bun. But it has some similarities in texture. Another change is that we’re still using the same 100% patties but we had been seasoning them while they cooked. It was a combination of salt and pepper. But we found that with the new combination of ingredients, consumers preferred the patty not to be seasoned. That’s another pretty big change for us, operationally and in the flavor that it brings out.
It was counter intuitive. We were thinking, “We need to have that seasoning” but the combination of using 100% mayo [rather than mayo-onion sauce] and butter-toasting the buns, consumers’ preference was for us not to have the seasoning on the burger patty.
We changed how we apply the lettuce. Now it’s a double layer of lettuce, and it really lends more crunch. We went into this research with our eyes wide open. We weren’t looking to confirm that we had the best burger. We were saying we should look at the current taste profile and see if we needed to make it better.
Did you give any thought to extending use of the garlic-herb butter you use on the Buttery Jack? Or did you want to keep that as a distinctive feature of just that product?
Actually we have discussed that internally. At this point, though, [garlic-herb butter] is going to stay focused on the Buttery Jack line. But some of what we learned from the Buttery Jack certainly led us to butter-toasting all of our buns now.
Do the changes apply to chicken sandwiches as well?
Yes, to chicken as well. The sesame-seed bun was on some chicken sandwiches as well, so now those sandwiches change. If we were using the mayo-onion sauce on them now we’re using the 100% mayo. There were a couple of breakfast sandwich, too, that were using the sesame-seed bun so thy have changed as well. Really it was across the menu.
You’ll promote the menu changes during your Super Bowl advertising?
The advertising will focus on the “Declaration of Delicious”campaign; our commitment to making every burger better. It’s a play on the Declaration of Independence, of course, so we’re having some with it. [The TV commercial] will be all about the burgers and lead with the Double Jack as an example of our declaration to make every burger better.
On Super Bowl Sunday we’re going add something special. We’re not announcing it beforehand. But it’s something that basically says, “We really are different now.”