The big quick-service chains have been busy in recent months introducing menu items that they hope will create buzz, bring in new customers, get their current customers to visit more often or, ideally, all three.
From items with health halos such as Burger King’s Turkey Burger and McDonald’s Egg White Delight McMuffin, to more indulgent items, such as Arby’s King’s Hawaiian roast beef sandwiches and the Pop-Tart ice cream sandwiches at Carl’s Jr., quick-service brands have been tracking trends and gauging their consumers as they strive to score big with new products.
Burger King’s Turkey Burger
Burger King made history in March by becoming the first of the big three burger chains to introduce a turkey burger nationally.
The 7,183-unit chain’s sandwich was offered at a suggested retail price of $3.99 and was made with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayonnaise on a premium bun.
Burger King gave that limited-time offer and other new items, such as its chipotle chicken wrap and new coffee and fruit-based beverages, credit for accelerating sales in March.
Burger King’s BK Rib Sandwich
Burger King subsequently launched a limited-time rib sandwich in May as part of a barbecue-themed summer menu. The rollout of the $3.49 sandwich appeared to be an attempt to compete with the McDonald’s cult favorite, the McRib.
New items from McDonald's, KFC
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McDonald’s Egg White Delight McMuffin
Continuing its campaign to prove that it has healthful menu items, McDonald’s launched on April 22 this egg-white-only version of its Egg McMuffin, which is priced the same but with 50 fewer calories. The company promoted the sandwich’s debut with a publicity event at which Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas sang its praises.
McDonald’s new Quarter Pounders
The quick-service burger giant debuted in June three new versions of its signature Quarter Pounder as replacements for the Angus Third Pounder, which it discontinued.
The new flavors are Deluxe, Habanero Ranch, and Bacon and Cheese. All three sandwiches are served on buns with more whole grain than the original quarter pounder. They are priced starting at $3.99.
KFC’s Original Recipe Boneless chicken
In April, KFC rolled out a new line of boneless chicken at its 4,618 domestic units, targeting Millennials who, according to research by parent company Yum Brands, prefer boneless chicken to the bone-in version. Franchisee support for the item has reportedly been very good.
Arby's, Dunkin', Wendy's debut new sandwiches
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Arby’s King’s Hawaiian roast beef sandwiches
This limited-time offering, co-branding the sweet bread with the 3,354-unit quick-service chain’s Roast Beef and Roast Beef and Swiss sandwiches, was introduced in May for $3.99 and $4.59, respectively. Although Arby’s hasn’t disclosed how the limited-time offering performed, a company spokesman said the marketing team has declared it “the most successful LTO in recent memory.”
Dunkin’ Donuts’ Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich
Dunkin’ Donuts celebrated National Doughnut Day on June 7 and grabbed national media attention with the debut in its 7,306 domestic restaurants of its Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich. The permanent menu item is made with a split Glazed Donut filled with a fried egg and cherry wood-smoked bacon, and has a suggested price of $2.99.
The chain pointed out that the sandwich has just 360 calories — less than even its Turkey Sausage Breakfast Sandwich, which has 390 calories.
With the new sandwich, Dunkin’ Donuts also made its Glazed Donuts available as carriers for other breakfast sandwiches as well.
Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger
Wendy’s joined the growing number of chains to offer pretzel bread with its July 4 rollout of the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger at a suggested price of $4.69 in its 5,817 domestic restaurants. The item was introduced as a limited-time offer, with no specific end date.
The sandwich has both a honey mustard sauce and Cheddar cheese sauce, as well as a slice of Cheddar cheese, red onion, tomatoes, applewood-smoked bacon and a nine-green spring mix, served on a chewy pretzel bun.
The item was so successful in test that tweets and other social media response to it was reportedly a “love fest.” So Wendy’s hired 98 Degrees love song crooner and reality TV star Nick Lachey to sing some of those tweets in the form of love songs.
It’s too early to know how well the burger is selling, but the launch has reportedly bolstered the mood at Wendy’s Dublin, Ohio, corporate headquarters.
Popeyes, Carl's Jr. score buzz
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Popeyes’ Chicken Waffle Tenders
Even before Popeyes’ new Chicken Waffle Tenders were rolled out systemwide, the Huffington Post declared the product to be ingenious.
“I have never experienced the buzz that we’ve experience this week, and it hasn’t even debuted yet,” said Dick Lynch, Popeyes’ chief global brand officer.
The item, a play on the classic Southern meal of fried chicken and waffles, is a variation on the Hand-Crafted Tenders that the 1,679-unit chain rolled out last September. The batter on the new product is lighter and crisper, however — more of a waffle-like batter — with a vanilla-maple scent. The tenders are paired with a honey maple sauce.
The item is available for four weeks starting July 29 at a price of $4.99 for three tenders, a side and a biscuit.
Carl’s Jr.’s Hand-Scooped Strawberry Pop-Tarts Ice Cream Sandwich
Carl’s Jr. has drawn considerable buzz — including a mention on Jimmy Kimmel Live! — even with the preliminary testing of its Pop-Tart ice cream sandwich. The co-branded dessert item features ice cream scooped between a halved strawberry Pop-Tart. It was rolled out systemwide at the chain’s 1,391 restaurants on July 24 for a recommended price of $1.49.
Contact Bret Thorn at email@example.com.
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