Chocolate Strawberry Pie, Naked Chicken, Pastrami Beef, Gohan Dabuchi Rice, Spam Oreo and Teriyaki Ugly Beef. These are just some of the new sandwich ingredients, burger choices and dessert fillings which have made it out of fast-food test kitchens and onto menu boards & touch screens at Burger King, McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A and Taco Bell in the past few years. The days of mostly regular burgers, ordinary fries and simple shakes are long gone.
Quick service menu choices have become much more tempting and more exclusive thanks to the huge interest in all things food, micro cuisines* and the industry’s constant desire for customer dollars & profits. Today think more like marinated patties, herb-to-garlic crisps and rich, spicy glazes. (*regional foods that are produced in a certain area by the cultures and peoples who live there)
Ever since Ray Kroc began transforming a small group of family restaurants from California, owned by the McDonald brothers, into a national chain in 1955, the quick bite, grab-and-go food business has made new taste discoveries, kept up to speed with eating trends and developed fresh ways to keep stomachs full and customers coming back. This is an industry that really means it when they speak about “customer satisfaction.” Full and content customers mean repeat business. The reward is more sales, bigger franchise fees and higher share prices.
#Facts: Over 50* million people eat fast food every day. Love it…hate it…or give in only a once in a while, #guiltypleasure, fast food is nearly impossible to avoid and is available everywhere from city streets to food courts, international airports and strip malls. There are more than 200,000* drive-thrus, quick stands and restaurants in North America. Just in California alone, the number is over 31,000, which is the same amount for the whole of Canada.
Business is big and business is booming. Worldwide sales of flame grilled snacks and quick serve bites are a $640* billion dollar a year industry. In Canada and the United States, sales of buffalo fries, sticky ice creams, cheese burgers, wraps and sandwiches all added up to $250** billion in 2019 and $240**billion USD in 2020. (* Source- prn newswire, North America. ** Source – Statista)
Top 10 Fast Food Chains: (Quick Service Restaurants) – North America.
4. Taco Bell.
5. Burger King.
10. Panera Bread.
(*Source: QSR Magazine. 2020)
For every food snob and healthy eating/healthy living champ who moans about the downside, there are 10 people secretly dreaming about a creamy caramel shake, crispy beef wrap or juicy bacon, mozarella cheese combo.
Lets break down a few myths and legends: KFC changed it’s name because they use “mutant” chickens in their recipes. False. The name was changed from Kentucky Fried Chicken to make it easier to say, spell and fit on signs. No, there is no horse meat in Taco Bell ingredients. The chemicals used are preservatives and food colouring. No, there are no body parts in Wendy’s foods. The story, which began on the internet, is fake. McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets are not made from pink slime. They are produced from chicken breast meat. One more thing, fast-food, slow-food, any kind of food…all grains, meats, drinks and dairy items have to be certified by government & health inspectors. No brand is looking to pick up a lawsuit, serious or silly. https://www.rd.com/list/ridiculous-fast-food-lawsuits/.
A real industry movement is towards increased freshness, ever healthier options, fewer food additives and the newest program… a big push into “locally sourced” ingredients from nearby farms and growing operations, such as free range chicken, beef, vegetables and plant based products.
Everything starts with flavour. Nobody’s buying otherwise. In the end, what fast food customers, munchie eaters and late nite snackers care about the most are: a) taste b) quality and c) price…in that order. The industry releases foods and specials seasonally, based around a main ingredient. Fall and winter equals stacked burgers and fuller, heavier choices. For spring and summer, sandwiches and craveables lean towards lighter, tangy selections.
$6 bucks or less is the magic number for 90% of single serve goodies, products and refreshments. Inside the test kitchens, chefs and food directors (yes, it’s a real thing) try almost any combination of greens, meats, spices and sauces to find just the right savoury taste and aroma.
New menu options are created with 2 work methods in mind.
1) Just-in-time production, where the item is made as and when the customer orders.
2) Batch production. Batch production involves trickier recipes, like glazed meats, breaded seafoods and one-off creations that can’t be fully prepped on-site and are delivered (almost) premade. Batch productions usually have limited availability because the size of demand is unknown, and 8 times out of 10, they are usually tied in with promotions, movies and public/sporting celebrations. Hands down, the most in-demand production and promotion of any kind last year was rapstar Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack Meal.
Smaller chains such as Five Guys and Chick-Fil-A are gaining in popularity, but the giant worldwide brand names (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King) still lead the way in food creativity and menu imagination. Here is a selection of recent and past international eating choices which have floated out of the testing ovens, passed the health inspections and made their way onto menus that show the business at work and highlight the direction of fast food.
No surprise, McDonald’s remains the supreme ruler of fast food. After 66 years, the company has the biggest library of culinary info to draw from plus the most resources to try new things. Don’t forget reach, with 13,154* North American locations and a footprint in every region from Argentina to Brazil and Sweden.(*Source: QSR Magazine)
The McDonald’s Samurai Mac is a + 1 from the famous two stack Big Mac, with three grilled soy 100% beef patties, crisp onions, 3 layers of cheese and a poppy seed bun. The Samurai is served alongside a Ginger Coke Dry and a lemon/ginger float – available only after 5pm.
Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken chips are triangle shaped nuggets made with “marinated all white meat,” covered with Mexican chili spices and seasoning. $1.99 for six pieces or 12 for $3.99. The “full combo” includes a Burrito Supreme, crunchy taco and medium drink.
The McDonalds Gohan Dabuchi Rice double cheeseburger was re-released in Japan by popular demand. Instead of the traditional poppy seed buns, the burger featured two crispy fried rice buns glazed in soy sauce. The rice buns were a supper swap for late night and overtime workers who were craving the taste of rice for dinner. ¥390 JPY = $3.70 USD.
As a new year’s 2021 special, Burger King released a Spicy Yakuyoke Whopper which was blessed by monks at the Jindaji Temple to keep away evil spirits. The burger was inspired by the yakuyoke tokens collected from temples as a good luck charm are layered with chilli powder and garlic chips. A special mint with the same name was offered as a cleanser. ¥750 JPY. limited edition.
For those in China who may have thought the promo flyer for the Spam Oreo burger was a joke, it turned out to be very true. An official collaboration with the Spam brand, the burger replaced beef with 2 slices of Spam topped with Oreo crumbs and buttered with mayo sauce. Production was limited to 400,000 units and priced at 13.14 RMB = $2.00 USD.
Burbur Ayam McD is a take of an Indonesian/Malaysian congee (rice porrige) dish. The ingredients include shredded chicken, ginger, diced green onions and chili.
The Chocolate Strawberry pie from McDonald’s is exactly what it sounds like. Inside a flaky pink crust, the classic apple filling was switched with fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce as an alternate dessert choice for those with $1.25 USD in their pocket and a sweet tooth.
Mollettes are a traditional Mexican breakfast or lunch snack. Served during breakfast hours, the McMollette is made of 3 open-faced sandwiches with refried beans, cheese and pico de gallo salsa. (tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice)
Every year since 1996, McDonald’s in Japan brings back it’s springtime series of Teramita burgers. The burgers include eggs, apples, ginger and pork patties with a garlicy sweet & spicy teriyaki style sauce. Diners can choose the classic, with cheese, or a breakfast muffin option. The newest offering included the Extruding Pastrami Beef edition that added double folded pastrami and aged mustard. The full meal included garlic chicken shaka shaka fries, a peach McFizz named after the Iwate Prefecture or the white peach McFloat. ¥350 – ¥450 JPY = $3.20 – 4.29 USD.
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Photo Credits: Ray Kroc, REIC Vietnam. Ginger Float, Prop Japan. McDonald’s menu board, RCA. Burger King China, Abi Skipp. Chick-Fil-A, Mike Mozart. Samurai Mac, Japan Today. Naked Chicken, Canadify. Gohan Dabuci Rice Burger, Japan Today. Yakuyoke Whopper, Lifestyle News Online. McMollettes, Method Shop. Spam Oreo, Must Share. Chocolate Strawberry, Yummy.ph. Burbur Ayam, Insider. Pastrami Beef, Talkcel News.