Arby's Gets a Makeover: New Logo, New Sandwiches. Is it an Improvement?

It's not your momma's Arby's anymore, though some wish it were. After some bad reviews, and an unfortunate discovery in a roast beef sandwich this summer, Arby's is trying to start "fresh."

First there's the new logo, which looks like it was hit with a Mac-computer, rather than truck. A compact, sleeker version of famous rope-wrapped cowboy hat features the "Arby's" name in sans serif, lower case.

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And say goodbye to the "good mood food" slogan. Now it's all about "slicing up freshness."

A new ad campaign, directed by Borat's own Larry Charles, takes aim at competitors like Subway by claiming Arby's as the freshest sandwich shop in town. Make that 3,500 towns worldwide.

Freshness, of course, depends on how you slice it. Arby's claim to fame is that their kitchen staff slices their meat by hand every day. Other chain restaurants outsource the job to factories so their cold cuts arrive pre-cut.

"We're in business for 48 years, and only slightly more than half of the people know that we slice our meats in our restaurants," Russ Klein, Arby's Chief Marketing Officer and the guy behind the chain's rebranding, told the Huffington Post. "And here's Subway, who the same number of people think they slice their meat, and they don't! So it was a clear market belief opportunity for us to go in and re-establish exactly who does what, knowing how important it would be to a consumer."

For the past five decades, the franchise has been best known for its high-calorie, sloppy and savory roast beef sandwiches and their sides of curly fries. But it's now introduced a line of turkey roasters, hot sandwiches that come under 300 calories without the cheese.

With McDonald's and Burger King rolling out lower calorie menus, competitors like Arby's also need lighter options and fresher ingredients to weather upcoming industry challenges, like the expected rise in beef costs and the gloomy prediction that the food-service market won't grow beyond 1 percent a year over the next decade.

Arby's in particular has suffered some setbacks in recent years. Yelp reviews have slammed ingredients and restaurant cleanliness. And a 2011 Consumer Reports roundup ranked Arby's among the lowest of the big chain sandwich shops when it came to taste.

Then summer kicked off with a major blow. A young boy found a finger--yes, a finger--in his Jr. Roast Beef sandwich.

After all that, Arby's new strategy reboots a tattered image, not only with a new look, but with a new signature sandwich line. The hot Turkey Toasters come in three varieties--the Turkey Classic, Turkey 'n Cheddar Classic and Grand Turkey Club. Compared to their roast beef counterparts, these sandwiches are a lot leaner. The Turkey classic, which skips the bacon and cheese add-ons, is just 290 calories. That's about 60 calories lighter than Arby's classic roast beef sandwich. Other menu additions that may be joining the Turkey Roasters soon include peppermint milkshakes, molten lava cakes and mini sandwiches, according to NPR. They don't sound exactly like health food, but the mini-sandwiches could provide a portion-control option for calorie-counters.

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But according to customers, the chain needs to make the old food better before they start making new food.

"Back in the 60's, Arby's used real beef for their sandwiches. They were really tasty. I have no idea what they are using today," writes a commenter on the NPR blog.

Still some customers are staying loyal to the brand, particularly after Arby's handed out Turkey Roaster freebies at select restaurants to promote the new menu options.

"The great thing is that the new menu with the old menu is another reason to come again," writes a Yelp reviewer, "Classic food but great new items."

But more than a few reviewers on the same page beg to differ. Writes one customer: "Arby's WTF happened? You used to be cool."


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