Looking Forward: 2016 Fast Food Trends

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This time of year brings stories and opinions from reporters, industry companies and market research firms of what will be the most popular trends in fast food. Not to be outdone, here’s my own “hot trends” story of what you can expect to see in fast food in 2016:

Breakfast Anytime, Anywhere

Expect more fast-food companies to follow McDonald’s and begin offering some or all of their breakfast items all day long. A few months back, I wrote that McDonald’s move to offer some of its breakfast items all day long was the biggest shot fired yet in the ongoing fast-food breakfast wars. And apparently, that shot is having an impact. According to a recent study by the NPD Group, the burger chain has been luring in new and lapsed customers with its all-day breakfast offerings. Additionally, one-third of its lunchtime breakfast-food diners hadn’t visited the chain at all in the previous month.

Fast food has no shame in following the leader, especially if the leader is doing something right. That means more places offering breakfast for lunch and dinner.

Let the Eggs Roam Free

Every day, it seems, another major food company makes the pledge toward cage-free eggs. Now we can argue back and forth as to the pros and cons of cage-free versus conventional cage eggs, but the fact remains: Fast food is jumping on the cage-free bandwagon feet first. McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Burger King, and Taco Bell are among the major quick-service players who have made this pledge in recent months. More will be on the way.

The Invincible Sriracha

I think of sriracha sauce as the trend that just won’t die. It’s not a new trend, and sriracha-laced items are becoming the norm in fast food. That said, this trend will only continue to grow in 2016. Papa John’s and Burger King are two of the latest chains that recently began offering new menu items topped with sriracha sauce, and for those that haven’t yet done so, expect them to.

A Beer With Your Big Mac

One of the things that make fast-casual chains stand out against fast-food chains is the fact that many serve alcohol, mainly beer and wine. Fast food is finally catching up. Starbucks is applying for liquor stores at stores across the U.S., even in Utah where alcohol comes to die. Meanwhile, Taco Bell recently began selling beer at a few locations, and Burger King has begun offering booze at its U.K. locations and may soon look to do the same back home.

Food My Way!

Customization, in and of itself, isn’t a new trend in fast food. Just about any fast-food place will make any of their items any way you want it if you just ask. But the growing trend here will be fast food advertising customization options. McDonald’s has begun doing so with billboards and ads touting its “tastecrafted” burgers, where the customer can pick his or her preferred meat, toppings, and bun. Like I said earlier, fast food has a tendency to follow the leader. So don’t be surprised if that happens here, too.

"Looking Forward: 2016 Fast Food Trends" originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.