Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.
I remember when the McDonald’s near my house began offering free soda refills. As a kid, it was a revelation! Unlimited soda with my Quarter Pounder with cheese.
Next, fast food chains began offering self-serve machines. So not only was I able to have unlimited soda, but I could get it myself without having to wait in line for the person behind the counter to refill it for me (and without the embarrassment of going up to the register three or four times to ask for more Diet Coke).
Now, there’s a new evolution in fast food and sodas: Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. Introduced in 2009, the Freestyle is a touchscreen machine that features up to 165 different Coca-Cola drink products and custom flavors. In addition to the widely available Coke and Sprite products, sodas such as Mello Yello, Barq’s creme soda, flavored Dasani water, and Powerade are offered, as well as flavored syrups to mix in, such as cherry, vanilla, and grape. (more…)
Recently, while at the drive-thru at my local McDonald’s, I noticed a poster that read, “Kale. Time To Meet A Real-Life Superfood.”
I grew up on fast food, like the Big Mac value meal I was waiting on. Everyone accepted that virtually the entire fast food menu was bad for you. In the 80s and 90s, there were no posters about kale. Heck, no one knew what kale was! (more…)
My friends and I were in Las Vegas recently for our annual guys’ trip. One evening we headed over to Caesar’s Palace to try the Bacchanal Buffet. Despite its $60 price tag, we were excited to try it because we heard it was the best buffet in Vegas.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who had heard. As we walked down a long hallway well off the casino floor, we were stopped halfway down by a sea of people waiting in line to enter. You couldn’t even see the buffet from the line’s end!
My friends and I looked at each other and considered our options. On one hand, this was easily a two-plus hour wait. On the other, we all had this buffet on the brain, so eating elsewhere was bound to be a disappointment.
But then fate (and the power of technology) found an answer. My friend Jeremy started typing away furiously on his iPhone and declared, “Hey guys, for $20 extra we can get a front-of-the-line pass!” (more…)
Since I was a kid, I’ve loved hot dogs. When the craving hits and I don’t have any in the house, I will often go to 7-Eleven for a couple of quarter-pound Big Bites. They’re good, they’re cheap, and the chili and cheese are free!
Lately, I’ve noticed that 7-Eleven offers other prepared foods: Chicken sandwiches, cheeseburgers, pizza, chicken wings, and even mozzarella sticks in some locations. It’s even increasing the number of promotions for these items: Any sized coffee and a ring donut for $2. Two pizza slices for just $2. A 1/4 –lb. Big Bite and 32-oz. Big Gulp for $2 (and if you get a second Big Bite, most locations will let you up the soda size to 64 oz). More and more, I find myself going to 7-Eleven for not just my hot dog needs, but for my donut and pizza needs as well.
I’m just one example of an interesting trend in the fast food world: Quick-service chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s are facing increasingly stiff competition from convenience store chains like 7-Eleven and ampm as they expand their prepared food options. (more…)
The fast food industry is bringing back $4 value meals in full force, but this time with an added wrinkle: Customization.
Wendy’s is currently offering customers a limited-time offer to choose its Double Stack burger as a sandwich option for its $4 meal. Other choices include the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger and the Crispy Chicken BLT.
While other chains frown on substitutions for these meals — the promo poster for Carl’s Jr.’s meal explicitly states “No Substitutions” — don’t be surprised if that changes soon. Customization remains a growing trend in fast food, which could grow with the help of popular $4 meals. (more…)
Every year around this time, fast food industry experts make lists of trends they expect to see in the industry for the upcoming year. To be honest, I ignore most of them. In fact, I ignore all of them, except one: my own!
With that in mind, here are the top trends I think we’ll see in the fast food industry in 2017: (more…)
You’d be forgiven if you thought that the fast food industry was quickly on its way to going the way of robots.
After all, go to the drive-thru and you’re often greeted with a recorded voice asking if you want to try the latest new product. Go inside any McDonald’s in the country and you’re likely to find a wall of kiosks to take your order instead of a cashier. Some places will even serve your food in glass compartments!
Yes, automation is making an impact on the U.S. foodservice industry. It just might not be taking over as fast as you expect. (more…)
McDonald’s took the offensive last year in the fast-food breakfast wars when it introduced the concept of all-day breakfast items to its menu. And now it’s testing Breakfast Happy Meals that could lead to the fast food chain going in for the kill.
At 73 locations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, McDonald’s will be offering morning kids’ meals, the first major new food entrée to the Happy Meal line in more than three decades. If the test proves successful, the meals could be rolled out across the U.S. next year. (more…)
In recent weeks, the fast-food industry has made a renewed push to remove antibiotics from its chicken products. Among them:
Why the change? Antibiotics are used for animal health maintenance, disease prevention, and treatment of disease, but there’s a growing concern among consumers and health officials that these same antibiotics lead to an increase in treatment-resistant bacterial infections in humans. Thus, the food industry, including fast food, has been continuously moving away from the practice.
Additionally, there’s been a measured shift toward chicken and away from beef in fast food. According to a recent report by research firm Technomic, the top 250 U.S. restaurant chains added about 325 new chicken items during the 12-month period ended June 30, compared to just 73 new beef items. Analysts say this trend reflects consumer cravings for healthier, high-protein meat.
My cousin Adam, who lives in Albany, recently sent me this text message:
DUDE! I just had a lobsta roll at McDonald’s and it’s AWESOME! A lobsta roll bro! At MCDONALD’S!!!! You gotta try it man!
But unless I hop on a plane to New England, I can’t try it. That’s because McDonald’s only offers the McLobster in certain areas in the Northeast. Out here in California, I’m out of luck.
Though the McLobster itself isn’t new, it’s part of a growing trend in the fast food industry: offering locally-inspired items only in select locations. It’s the industry’s latest attempt to attract millennial men like my cousin. (more…)