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:
I know, I know. I’ve flip-flopped on this before. I listed breakfast as a trend for 2016, only to take it back a few months later. I’m changing my answer one more time: More fast-food restaurants will offer some sort of all-day breakfast menu in 2017. The reason: There’s simply too much profit to be made. The move made McDonald’s relevant again in the U.S. (its biggest market), and though I said it before, it’s only a matter of time before another major chain follows. Once one of them does, more will follow.
Automation will continue to expand in the fast-food realm in the form of things such as self-service kiosks, but don’t expect the technology to majorly impact workers in 2017. The reason: Many of the jobs in the industry, particularly in the kitchen, are too skilled to be automated. Until that type of technology is perfected, jobs won’t be particularly affected.
My wife and I decided to stay in one recent Saturday night and looked on Postmates to see what we wanted for dinner. We couldn’t believe the number of fast food restaurants that were on there! “Nev, we can have Wendy’s delivered to our house!” my wife exclaimed. Food delivery service is expanding, and fast food is increasingly jumping on this bandwagon. Don’t be surprised to soon see your favorite fast food chain on an online delivery service you frequent, if it’s not already there.
Bacon has been making a noticeable comeback on fast food menus. Burger King is offering its new Bacon King burger, Jack in the Box sells a bacon cheeseburger combo for under $5, and Carl’s Jr. is promoting its Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger on televisions everywhere. Know why? U.S. pork prices are down from last year! As long as the price stays low, expect more bacon-topped items to come your way.
Recently, a writer at Thrillist.com called me up asking me why Cheetos was becoming so popular on restaurant menus, including fast food. I gave her some theories, but you want to know the truth? I have absolutely no idea! What I do know is that Cheetos is becoming more popular when it comes to new fast food items — whether it’s Taco Bell’s Cheetos Burrito, or Burger King’s Cheetos Chicken Fries and Mac and Cheetos… and there’s no indication this trend will stop come 2017.
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.