10 Cutting-Edge Fast-Food Innovations of 2013 (Slideshow)
10) Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger
Wendy’s began rolling out their new Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger in June, and it was an immediate hit. With Cheddar cheese sauce, thick-cut bacon, honey mustard, lettuce, tomato, and red onion adorning a burger patty, it would have been delicious even if they just tucked it into a standard bun. But in an effort to convince consumers that they have higher standards than that, they’re using an artisan-style pretzel bun. These have been popular for some time, but the pretzel bun’s jump into the fast-food world made it clear that not only had the bun’s moment really arrived, but that a fast-food giant can really have their finger on the pulse of the nation’s culinary heartbeat.
9) Burger King Turkey Burgers and Veggie Burgers
The turkey burger has been a fast-food white whale for years, with a reputation for being dry and flavorless, and veggie burgers are notoriously difficult to perfect, but Burger King finally cracked the code earlier this year when they rolled out their limited-time-only turkey burger and veggie burger at the same time.
8) McDonald’s Transitioning From Styrofoam to Paper Cups
McDonald’s announced last month that in an effort to become more eco-friendly they’ll be switching from Styrofoam to paper coffee cups at all of their 14,000 restaurants nationwide. The double-walled paper cups insulate just as well as Styrofoam, and the company is also exploring using a material other than plastic for their cold-drink cup.
7) McDonald’s Wraps
As part of their ongoing effort to make their menu healthier, McDonald’s rolled out Premium McWraps back in March, containing vegetables previously unseen at the fast-food giant, like cucumbers. Filled with fried or grilled chicken, cheese, bacon, and a selection of sauces, it’s still possible to load yours up with fat and calories, but with the vegetables front and center, it’s also possible to customize it into a legitimately healthy item.
6) Burger King Rib Sandwich
Burger King challenged the dominance of McDonald’s McRib sandwich in May with a limited-edition rib sandwich of its own. Whereas the McRib is infamous for its "fakeness," the new sandwich actually looked and tasted like real meat, wasn’t doused in sauce, and was smoky and missing the "mystery meat" component of the McRib. While it will probably never enjoy the cult status of its more famous cousin, just the fact that there’s a competitor is a step in the right direction.
5) McDonald’s Offering Salads, Fruit, Vegetable Sides
For as long as McDonald's Value Meals have been around, there has only been one side option: fries. As another indicator of a move toward healthiness, McDonald's announced last month that fries will soon be joined by fruit, salads, and vegetables. A variety of side dish options as part of a value meal might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s breaking new ground in the fast-food industry.
4) McDonald’s Egg White Delight
McDonald’s announced in March a major shake-up to its breakfast menu, with the introduction of an all-egg-white sandwich. As opposed to the microwaved patties you see elsewhere, these are made with real egg whites, cooked free-form on the griddle. Partnered with Canadian bacon and white Cheddar cheese on a whole-grain English muffin, it’s something we can certainly get behind.
3) McDonald’s Mighty Wings
McDonald’s proved once again last month that they could revolutionize the fast-food industry without skipping a beat by announcing that they’d be testing out their Mighty Wings on a national scale. The wings are big and crispy, and prove that a fast-food giant other than KFC can compete in this game.
2) KFC Opens KFC eleven
After much secrecy, KFC opened their fast-casual prototype, KFC eleven, near their Louisville, Ky., headquarters back in July. With a menu largely revolving around their new boneless chicken (used in salads, sandwiches, rice bowls, and flatbreads), the new restaurant is geared toward those who are looking for something a little upscale with their fast food. It’s still unknown whether more will open, but this could be a sign of things to come for a fast-food industry that’s constantly looking to reinvent itself.
1) Burger King Satisfries
Burger King shook up the relatively static fast-food french fry world last month with the introduction of Satisfries, which not only are crinkle-cut, but contain less fat and calories than their standard fries thanks to a nifty scientific trick. Every fast-food fry gets a dunk in a thin batter, and this one is formulated to allow less oil to penetrate into the potato while it fries. Not only does it make the offering healthier, it completely reinvents it. Satisfries are the most cutting-edge fast-food invention so far in 2013.