American fast food customers say they want healthy food, but when it comes to McDonald’s customers (MCD) – Get the McDonald’s Corporation report and Restaurant Brands International (RSQ) – Get the report from Restaurant Brands International Inc. Burger King, they don’t seem to really care.
That’s why McDonald’s stopped selling salads, after trying a variety of them (remember McSalad Shakers?) over the years.
People say they like the idea of fast food chains offering healthier choices, but when they visit one they almost always opt for a Big Mac, Whopper or other classic menu item instead. a salad or something vaguely healthy.
That’s why Burger King’s Impossible Whopper was at best a modest hit in the US and McDonald’s plant-based burger, the McPlant, wasn’t a big hit (to be kind).
Solving this problem may require chains to borrow a tactic they’ve both used in India and other global markets: making plant-based foods whose appeal isn’t tied to health.
Essentially, give people what they say they want from fast food – decadence – and do it in a way that isn’t as judgmental as how many healthy fast food products have been marketed.
That’s at least part of the philosophy behind an item on the Burger King menu.
Burger King goes for truffles
Few ingredients evoke decadence as much as a truffle. These fancy mushrooms cost a fortune and are usually only served as a side dish (think a sauce or a small amount ground over an entree) in high-end restaurants. Burger King Thailand’s plant-based burger has a truffle-based sauce.
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The fast food chain shared the details on its Burger King Thailand website.
“The unique plant-based black truffle consists of a flame-grilled plant-based pancake (100% plant-based), topped with Swiss cheese, black truffle sauce imported from Italy and mushrooms served on a toasted sesame seed bun, this budget-friendly meal includes regular fries and a 16 oz.
“Plant-based patties are made from plants, cooked on the same grill as other Burger King menus [items].”
So, like the McPlant in the US, this plant-based burger is not for true vegans or vegetarians (who tend to dislike their sandwiches cooked alongside real meat).
Instead, it’s an offering for people who want to feel like they’re doing something healthy even though they’re not actually doing anything healthy.
It’s all about the illusion of fast food
Burger King and McDonald’s have repeatedly tried to launch healthier menu items. They all went the way of McLean, a low-calorie version of a burger, and Burger King’s Satisfries, an equally disastrous effort to make fries lower in calories.
The challenge for these chains is to provide customers with a healthier (or at least seemingly healthier) option that people actually want. When it comes to plant-based meat, there’s a big difference between what people say they want and what they order.
A plant-based Whopper or Big Mac, especially one cooked on the same grill as beef patties, has already been proven to have limited appeal. The black truffle may not be the exact item to bridge that gap in the United States, but it may show a way forward.
Offering healthier, vegan/vegetarian options probably requires doing more than removing your usual menu items with plant-based copies. It may make more sense to look into items that are naturally meatless.
It’s also, of course, possible, maybe even likely, that most people who eat at Burger King and McDonald’s can say they want healthier choices, but don’t really mean what they say.