10 Fast Food Chains That Are Trying to Up Their Game

You might be surprised to learn how hard these chains are trying to innovate — for various reasons
White Castle

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

These are hard times for fast food chains. The old standby burger-and-fries is giving way to more “fast casual” offerings like upscale salads and made-to-order sandwiches, and the old guard chains are pulling out all the stops in an effort to catch up and innovate — doing everything from introducing all day breakfast to rolling out wacky technological gimmicks. Here are 10 chains that are throwing everything at the wall and hoping that something sticks. 

10 Fast Food Chains That Are Trying to Up Their Game

White Castle

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

These are hard times for fast food chains. The old standby burger-and-fries is giving way to more “fast casual” offerings like upscale salads and made-to-order sandwiches, and the old guard chains are pulling out all the stops in an effort to catch up and innovate — doing everything from introducing all day breakfast to rolling out wacky technological gimmicks. Here are 10 chains that are throwing everything at the wall and hoping that something sticks. 

Burger King

Burger King

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Burger King has been making some major strides in an attempt to lure in new customers within the past year. They brought back Chicken Fries (and rolled out Fiery Chicken Fries), pulled soda from their kids’ menu, launched a breakfast value menu with breakfast items selling for $1 and up, and brought back the ham and cheese Yumbo in an effort to appeal to the “retro” crowd. (They also introduced lower-calorie “Satisfries,” but those didn’t last very long.) 

Chipotle

Even though Chipotle’s finances aren’t in trouble, that doesn’t mean that they’re not constantly striving to innovate. They became the first GMO-free national chain in April, are simplifying the ingredients in their tortillas, they rolled out delivery across 67 cities (and will deliver to many college campuses this fall), and they  recently held a job fair in which they hired 4,000 new employees in one day. 

Domino’s

Domino’s

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The majority of Domino’s innovations over the past year or so have been in the technology department, and most of those can be written off as gimmicks. They’ll deliver you a pizza by airplane if you live on tiny Caribbean islands, they’ll deliver to packed Indian commuter trains, and they’ll let you order your pizza via smartwatch, Twitter emoji, or their voice app

Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts

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Dunkin' Donuts has branched out so far from doughnuts these days that judging by advertising alone you wouldn’t even know they sell them. Along with launching new breakfast sandwiches regularly, they’ve also started delivering through their mobile app, removed a potentially carcinogenic ingredient from their doughnuts, expanded into Mexico, introduced their first single-origin coffee, and added macchiatos to their coffee offering lineup. 

KFC

KFC

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Kentucky Fried Chicken has made some major strides in its advertising game lately, bringing back Colonel Sanders via Darrell Hammond and now Norm McDonald. They’ve also taken some technological jumps, introducing a gimmicky bucket in Canada that prints out photos as well as a Bluetooth-enabled “smart tray.”

McDonald’s

McDonald’s

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No fast food chain has been trying harder to up its game than McDonald’s; it seems like every week they’re trying something new. Recently they’ve dabbled with table service, ground chicken burgers, and fancy burgers; announced a mobile app and begun the switch to cage-free eggs; and in perhaps their boldest move in years, they’ve finally introduced all-day breakfast

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut

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Pizza Hut recently added a wide variety of bold pizza options in an effort to appeal to millennials through their “Flavor of Now” campaign, but once it became clear that this strategy wasn’t working they went back to what they do best: novelty pizzas, including a breadstick crust pizza and one with pigs in blankets for a crust. They’ve also rolled out gluten free pizzas as well as “skinny slices” for the health-conscious, and in a real head-scratcher, they’re testing pizza boxes that double as movie projectors

Taco Bell

Taco Bell

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Taco Bell has been on a roll since they introduced breakfast a couple years ago. Recently, they’ve launched delivery, started testing a dollar breakfast menu, experimented with a (failed) upscale concept, announced plans to remove artificial ingredients, and even started serving alcohol

Wendy’s

Wendy’s

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Last year, Wendy’s started demanding that its pork suppliers provide them with animal welfare reports, and within the past few months they’ve really been on a tear from a health standpoint: They’ve begun testing antibiotic-free chicken, took sodas out of kids’ meals, tested out veggie burgers, and started selling organic tea. But they’re also really pushing their barbecue pork line as well, even launching a new interactive video series with pitmasters.

White Castle

White Castle

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Even White Castle, one chain that can probably get along just fine resting on its laurels, has been working to innovate. They now offer veggie sliders, and recently started offering breakfast all day long