My cousin Adam, who lives in Albany, recently sent me this text message:
DUDE! I just had a lobsta roll at McDonald’s and it’s AWESOME! A lobsta roll bro! At MCDONALD’S!!!! You gotta try it man!
But unless I hop on a plane to New England, I can’t try it. That’s because McDonald’s only offers the McLobster in certain areas in the Northeast. Out here in California, I’m out of luck.
Though the McLobster itself isn’t new, it’s part of a growing trend in the fast food industry: offering locally-inspired items only in select locations. It’s the industry’s latest attempt to attract millennial men like my cousin.
As the world’s largest fast-food chain, it makes sense that McDonald’s is the driving force behind local menu items. Besides reintroducing the lobster roll on the East Coast, McDonald’s has offered Johnsonville Brats in Milwaukee, larger Big Macs in Central Ohio, breakfast bowls with kale to folks like me in California.
Other chains have hopped onto this trend as well. At Panda Express, for example, customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, can enjoy Mapo Tofu, while its customers in Springfield, Missouri, have the option of Springfield Cashew Chicken. And if you live in California, the Midwest, or Ontario, you have access to Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s new Budweiser Brewhouse Bacon Cheeseburger.
In addition to locally-inspired items, fast food restaurants are also testing “natural” foods. Earlier this year, McDonald’s tested Chicken McNuggets in Portland, Oregon, that lacked artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. McDonald’s has also tested fresh, not frozen, hamburger patties in some Dallas locations.
Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. recently announced new skinless chicken breasts for its sandwiches that are “natural” because they are minimally processed, and don’t have any artificial preservatives or additives. The chains were already the first to sell natural turkey burgers and a line of all-natural, grass-fed beef burgers, with no added hormones, antibiotics, or steroids.
These new products are aimed primarily at millennial men, who visit fast-food chains 11 times a month, more than any other group, and spend more on their meals, said Brad Haley, Chief Marketing Officer for CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.
Lobster rolls. Kale breakfast bowls. Chicken sandwiches without preservatives. All of this, and more, could be on its way to a fast-food chain near you.
"Fast Food Lures Millennials with Local and “Natural” Items" originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.