August 3, 2005 

Best Blimp from Idaho? • McChix stretches its wings

Best Blimp from Idaho?

It is slightly odd that a restaurant chain would conduct and promote its own self-contained "best restaurant contest," but Blimpie is apparently unaware of the irony. They're focusing instead on their intention in their Best Blimpie Restaurant contest to weed out the best of the Blimps in the nation. And just a hop, skip and a jump away from Boise is one of the three restaurant finalists, located in Merdian at 521 S. Main St.

The Meridian Blimpie has been operating since January of 1996 under the ownership of Franchisee Shelley Uzzel Savage. The restaurant was selected based on a series of nominations, performance and customer/mystery shopper feedback, and the stakes are high. The overall winner will receive $10,000 (to improve their existing restaurant or start up another) at the 2005 Blimpie Franchisee Convention in Miami in August. The contest purports that the winner will be the Blimpie with "superior customer service, a sparkling clean restaurant, all front line employees in neat and proper uniforms, freshly baked bread, properly displayed signage on the walls, smiling faces and B.I.P Club Frequency cards in the hands of every customer!" (Whether the contest has teamed up with Red Bull to supply these employees with the zip to remain constantly perky was not disclosed.)

Only 21 finalists were selected out of all nominated locations before being further narrowed down to the top three. "We selected finalists based largely on what the nominator had to say about the restaurant," explained Bruce Kolbinsky, vice president of associate relations and training for Blimpie International.

A customer, Lonni Doorn, nominated the Meridian Blimpie. "Shelley is always in the restaurant during the busy lunch hour working right along with her employees," Doorn said about Savage. "I always come back because the store is clean and the employees are friendly. It's apparent her goal is great customer service."

Twice a month in June, the 21 finalists were scouted out by mystery shoppers evaluating exterior restaurant appearance, initial greeting upon entering the restaurant, employee appearance, order taking, food appearance, cashier encounter, store appearance/cleanliness, the food and the departure. "Before we sent out the first mystery shopper, I had a feeling Shelley would be one of the finalists. She has been a great franchisee for years winning virtually every other award we have ever offered, including Franchisee of the Year in 2003," said Kolbinsky.

McChix stretches its wings

McDonalds is also in an unabashedly self-promoting phase. On August 2, McDonalds will debut three new Premium Chicken Sandwiches: the Classic, Ranch BLT and Club. This fare joins McDonalds growing "portfolio," which includes the infamous Chicken McNuggets. If we had known the birthday of the McNuggets that's one thing-perhaps these newbies will join the McNugget ranks as a Mickey-D's cult classic-but otherwise, August 2 is just another day. However, the debut announcement does coincide with some interesting chix statistics from the National Chicken Council's (NCC). According to NCC consumer data, Americans are buying chicken more frequently-overall national consumption of chicken is expected to reach 87 pounds per person in 2005. Fast food joints like McDonalds account for 25 percent of consumption, selling more than 600 million pounds of chicken annually.

Have an item for Füd News? Please send info to Jen Parsons at jen@boiseweekly.com or fax to 342-4733.

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