The fast-food industry makes continuous strides to improve menu options and be seen as a healthy option for consumers
As we rang in the New Year just one month ago, most of us made resolutions that impact our image and the fast-food industry is right along with us. The industry is working overtime to change the way diners perceive its menu offerings and avoid fast food becoming what some are calling a “dirty” word.
Chick-fil-A was one of the first restaurants this year to announce a healthy addition to its menu. The Atlanta-based company will replace its coleslaw with a kale and broccolini salad Monday, saying it is one of the first fast-food restaurants to add “superfoods” to its menu. The “Superfood Side” is made with a blend of hand-chopped kale and broccolini, tossed in a sweet and tangy maple vinaigrette dressing and topped with dried sour cherries and served with a blend of roasted nuts to enhance the flavor and add crunch, Chick-Fil-A said.
“The Superfood Side is not something you would expect to see at a fast food restaurant, and we’re thrilled to kick off 2016 with something that can help people stick to their New Year’s resolutions to eat healthfully,” said David Farmer, vice president of menu strategy and development for Chick-fil-A in a statement. “We are always looking for new ways to introduce healthier and all-natural items to our customers, and in partnering with Ford Fry Restaurants to develop the Superfood Side, we are able to incorporate high-end restaurant flavors and ingredients to our menu.”
Most brands are jumping onboard the healthy train by removing GMOs, artificial ingredients and adding healthier options to their menus. Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains announced last year they removed artificial flavors and colors from their food, as well as additives like trans fats. If you are brave enough to step through their doors right now, Chipotle became the first national restaurant company last April to cook with only non-GMO ingredients. Papa John’s just announced it has removed artificial colors and flavors from all of its menu items, becoming the first national pizza chain to do so. Pizza Hut removed the ingredients from its pizza, but not from all other menu items. “For over 30 years, Papa John’s has been committed to serving you ‘Better Ingredients. Better Pizza,’” the company says. “This means that we are continually working to use only the highest quality ingredients and removing as many unwanted ingredients as we can. Recently there have been published reports of efforts by other brands to remove unwanted ingredients from their food. We welcome these actions.”
McDonald’s vowed to remove all antibiotics within the next two years and shift to cage-free eggs in the next 10 years. The fast-food chain also stopped using margarine on its breakfast sandwiches, started testing kale in breakfast bowls and remove hard-to-pronounce ingredients from the grilled chicken. CEO Steve Easterbrook called the changes “a global turnaround” last May and is working to turn McDonald’s into a “modern progressive burger company” after a poor performance record. “The numbers don’t lie,” he said. “Which is why, as we celebrate 60 years of McDonald’s, I will not shy away from resetting this business.”
As most fast-food chains work to “reset” their image from French fries and grease to a place you can go for a healthy meal, the industry is now using terms like “fast crafted,” “fine casual,” and “fan food” to describe its offerings and continue to attract consumers. As healthy eating continues to dominate consumers’ minds when choosing where to eat, chain restaurants in New York City are required to put warnings on high sodium foods under a new law that is meant to reduce salt consumption. Maine wants to ban its residents on food stamps from buying soda and sweets, San Francisco approved health warnings on ads for sugary drinks, and the government and big food companies are still going back-and-forth on mandatory labeling.
The future of fast-food chains points towards healthier options, and we are seeing this change daily. We don’t, however, foresee these restaurants completely revamping their menus to exclude those not so good for you options, so there will still be plenty of greasy options a