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Panera avoids breakfast wars by declaring Civil War on itself.

Jeepers. Just watch this CNBC video.

Okay, I know you don’t have time to watch it so I’ll boil it down: the CEO of Panera manages to enunciate, efficiently, things that kinda bothered me about Panera but I hadn’t put in the time to really express in conscious, rational language: everybody uses one line, you shuffle over to what he calls “the mosh pit” to retrieve your food, but you’re not sure which food is yours, and your drinks are over here—he’s right. That’s an unpleasant moment in an otherwise pleasant experience.

So he’s going to fix that before he wades into any elephants-trampling-you-during-wartime mixed metaphor:

“My basic thesis is when there’s a war going on, don’t get trampled by the elephants,” said Ron Shaich, the chain’s founder, chairman and CEO, in an in-person interview. “Don’t try to beat them. Be who you are.”

Anyway, now that he’s appeared on CNBC to remind me how long it takes and how confusing it is to get your food at Panera, his solution is looking like a high-tech boop-boop-de-boop self-guided e-solution. Maybe there are those whom that works for—the to-go customers are the ones it’s aimed at—but I don’t that I imagine Panera’s prime target as wanting to take control of their experience. I think they go there to relax and let someone else handle the world for awhile.

That’s why their decor and comfort food combo has worked, in my opinion: they solve a big problem, which is the modern world is a wearying place. Generally, they seem to understand their role in our lives. Now they’re modern-ing it up.

Maybe we’ve come far enough for that to work. Maybe some Millennials who aren’t all carb- and gluten-free will join the moms and lady lunchers who seem to be, from my experience, the suburban bread-and-butter of this cross between Starbucks and Chipotle. Maybe.

Taco Bell continues its humorous assault and—okay, now, let’s hold on just a second.

loved the Taco Bell ad where they got all the Ronald McDonald’s together so much, I ended up watching an entire making-of video that YouTube served me last night.

And I even went on record for Nation’s Restaurant News.

Now, here’s their latest “subtle shot” at McDonald’s, released today:

Well made. Funny. Nice, coy use of public domain music melody. Good point. Um, wait. This might have stumbled over an invisible trip wire—I am inordinately fond of an Egg McMuffin, partly because I’ve been eating them so long. While my logical, rational self might chuckle and say touché and promise to go give the new Waffle Taco a try, I, um….well, I don’t feel the same delight I felt at the playful poke Taco Bell took at Mickey D’s with the congregation of Ronalds. I’m mostly reminded of my nostalgic feelings for the ol’ McMuffin.

Maybe Millennials don’t feel that way. But I bet I’m not the only Gen-Xer who does.

Careful with the playful jab, there, Taco Bell. It’s an art to recognize when the fun’s over and people are starting to get a little irritable.

Just Spell the Name Right: Leveraging Outrage to Get Attention

So all publicity is good publicity—that’s a cliché so it must be true, right? “Spell the name right,” the huckster character in the hard-boiled movie says.

A recent Nation’s Restaurant News article collects five controversial ads, a couple of which are just now being submitted for the public’s approval and/or outrage.

One is for Pizza Patrón and contains a word that you’re apparently not supposed to say to a polite Spanish-speaker. (This poster is the follow-up to a non-censurado version that I am apparently too sensitive to post.)

Pizza Patron says something it maybe shouldn't but they're getting a lot of publicity so now they're glad they did.

Another is for Taco Bell, causing me to recall the moment where I went from understanding the inexplicable hit “Afternoon Delight” as a pop song on the school bus radio and suddenly understood it to be an incredibly naked description of having sex at a particular hour of the day.

Also, of course, NRN includes another crass Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s ad that appeals to both its “hungry young men” demographic and probably a slightly younger than “men” demographic and then, for good measure, all the pervy older members of less frequently mentioned demographics.

God, that’s so unsubtle I can’t even give them the usual credit I allow for at least understanding their audience. THAT ONE WAS TOO EASY, GUYS.

The article contains a couple other examples of brands taking the low road, including Joe’s Crab Shack.

So, what makes a brand able to do this? Obviously, brands aiming at the youth market can get by with more than someone like Starbucks or McDonald’s, companies trying to include absolutely everyone in their big tent. But it also is a gamble—and I’m not saying this from a moral high-horse. The more dumb, deliberate outrage you court, the less you can be taken as someone people can trust. If your brand is the equivalent of the guy who says, “That’s what she said!” after practically everything and then laughing harder than everyone else, you’re eventually identified as immature and essentially banished until everyone’s ready for foolishness again. Not everybody is in the mood for this all the time.

When you have lots of chances to communicate with your audience, like Taco Bell, the immature moment turns into one aspect of a larger campaign. When you’ve given up on everybody except “That’s what she said”-ish boys, you can take the Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s route, I suppose. But if you have limited funds and can only get people’s attention now and then, choose carefully.

Right now, I only know Joe’s Crab Shack and Señor Patrón as naughty-talking goofballs.

On the other hand, I believe I did spell “Patrón” correctly.

(sigh) Okay. Vominos, then. Vominos, muchachos.

Here in America, we love a clever, brutal, totally fair-handed stab through the heart. Taco Bell knows this.

McDonald’s just has to sort of grimace and take it.

Everybody I’m seeing online (and that includes me) loves this sly jab from a perceived underdog to a perceived overdog:

Isn’t that delightful? Taco Bell extends its run of clever, anti-establishment reputation-making (even though, if you’re the local taco truck, you probably consider this Yum! Brand to be pretty much the establishment). Also, note: they compare themselves to #1, and imply they’re #2. They don’t bother mocking Wendy, a sexy Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. soft-porn model, nor whomever is repping the King these days—the Burger Prime Minister? The Burger Press Relations Corp? They want to be seen in the company of the clown.

So here’s the question: yes, these are exciting conceptually. But can they become the breakfast equivalent of Locos Tacos? It depends on execution, doesn’t it? McDonald’s crosses its arms confidently and waits, occasionally refreshing Yelp and its Twitter feed.

So here’s the question: yes, these are exciting conceptually, but can they become the breakfast equivalent of Locos Tacos? It depends on execution, doesn’t it? McDonald’s crosses its arms confidently and waits, occasionally refreshing Yelp and its Twitter feed.

Wendy’s to Millennials: “We get it. You want to pay with your phone. But you have to stop playing with it for two seconds.”

That’s the same chain who recently removed the term “old-fashioned” from its corporate logo.

Here’s a screen shot of the app, which I’m borrowing from the MacRumors website.

Wendy's mobile payment is further proof that this isn't Dave Thomas's little old-fashioned burger joint anymore.

Burger King already said it’s doing the same thing. McDonald’s says it’s trying to figure out exactly how it wants to do it, and so is Chipotle.

Meanwhile, Starbucks just smiles, serves you a beer, and waits for you to fish your phone out of your pocket. “Boop!” the Starbucks register says. Cheers.

UPDATED 3/27/2014 at 10:22 a.m.

Now Nation’s Restaurant News is reporting that Subway is “quietly” testing mobile payments, too. Everybody, please don’t leave your phones at the bar when you take off, even if it’s an iPhone prototype or something. You’re going to need the phone to pay for your fast food on the way home.

Subway is always an alternative to fast food.