Would you believe there’s a new “golden age” of fast food? Among the Top 10 chains, more than 1,000 units have popped up in the last year or so, all reflecting the double-digit sales consumers are ringing up.
Trying to please all those fast food lovers showing up in the drive-thru lanes, chains are adding everything shy of glazed donut salads and pork rind sundaes to their menus to make consumers lick their chops in anticipation.
They’ve got the meats!
Here’s a quick review of what’s in store the next time you venture out for a quick bite to eat:
Chipotle: Chipotle said it is trying out a new chicken option, Chicken Al Pastor, at 94 restaurants in Denver and Indianapolis. The chain is also adding new menu bowls and tacos based on the ‘88 Club -- a Dallas Cowboys championship team. For example, the "Michael Irvin Bowl" has chicken, brown rice, black beans, fresh tomato salsa, cheese, lettuce, and some guacamole and queso blanco.
Sonic: Sonic is going north of the border for some inspiration with a cheeseburger inspired by Montréal steak.
McDonald’s: After it sold out of its new Chicken Big Mac in 10 days in the U.K., McD's has brought it to the States. It’s currently being tested in Miami, but if all goes well, it could start showing up in the franchisees’ other “hen houses” around the country.
Del Taco: Tortas – Spanish for sandwich – are regular menu items at sit-down Mexican restaurants, but Del Taco thinks fast food eaters would like them too. Soon, all 600-plus Del Taco locations will have three varieties of the new fully-stuffed 7-inch Epic Tortas – Chicken BLT, Crispy Chicken Guac, and Carne Asada & Queso.
Popeyes: The New Orleans-flavored chain is thinking a little outside the box with Surf & Turf, a shrimp and chicken combo sandwich, and returning the 8-piece Hushpuppy Shrimp to the menu.
Chick-fil-A: To try and please its breakfast bunch, Chick-fil-A is giving baked egg bites a whirl.
Hardee’s and Carl’s Junior: The pair aren’t copying each other, but since they're sister chains serving different parts of the country, both Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s are testing similar sandwiches served on King’s Hawaiian Bread. Both have breakfast and chicken sandwiches on King’s bread, but Carl’s is also giving a King Hawaiian double cheeseburger a shot as well.
McDonald’s: Ronald has decided that Americans would love a cheese Danish – resplendent with sweet cream cheese and vanilla sauce – so we’re getting one starting September 14 on the chain’s McCafé Bakery menu.
Wendy’s: If Wendy’s is part of your rise-and-shine, heads up, now on the chain’s breakfast menu are French toast sticks.
Who’s got the sweets? Plenty of seasonal pumpkin’y options to be found on menus, too.
Chicken Salad Chick: The chain is offering a new pumpkin cheesecake for the season.
Freddy’s: Its Pumpkin Pie Concrete is set to return to the menu for a limited time, as well.
Starbucks: The caffeine queen has brought back its Pumpkin Spice Latte for the 19th year, and with it, the first recurrence of the Apple Crisp Macchiato, now made with oat milk.
Smoothie King: It is Fall, after all, so the smoothie chain is trying to do the same thing as Starbucks, but on the chilly end of the spectrum, by rolling out pumpkin drinks for the fall, plus two new (and permanent) coffee options – espresso and cold brew coffee.
Popeyes: If you want some dessert to go with your chicken sandwich order, Popeye’s is introducing Banana Cream Cake and bringing back those Chocolate Beignets that proved to be a big hit a couple of years ago.
Non-meat alternatives are getting some new action, too.
Baja Fresh: After a successful trial, Baja Fresh is giving its Impossible Taco Combo, Fuego Impossible Burrito, and Impossible Bowl all permanent spots on the menu.
Burger King: Burger King is also testing a meatless chicken substitute at its Cincinnati-area stores.
Taco Bell: Not to be outdone, Taco Bell fans in Birmingham, Ala. are getting another reason to be cheesin’ for the season. For a limited time, they can buy the meat-free Crispy Melt Taco, resplendent with shredded cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey pepper jack cheeses, plus warm nacho cheese sauce.