Fast food restaurants are known for their cheeseburgers, fries and chicken sandwiches, but Wendy's wants to see if it can attract a different type of customer: vegans.
The redheaded-adorned franchise is the latest eatery to offer a vegan burger option. The addition, called the Black Bean Burger, is currently only offered in a few select locations in Salt Lake City, Columbus, Ohio, and Columbia, S.C.
Previously, White Castle released a vegan burger and later made all of its buns vegan system wide.
Though franchise expert Joel Libava says he’s not sure if the move to go vegan really would have that much impact on how the industry does business, he did say the decision to do so is low risk.
“The best case scenario is that they get a few new customers that would’ve never thought to visit their stores for food,” he says. “The worst thing would be that they would get some wonderful PR for something that doesn’t work out in the long run with something that might not require that much effort.”
Whether the trend is actually sustainable, Libava doesn’t know.
“It’s like Burger King and the hot dog thing,” he says. “I have not talked to one person that has purchased or consumed it, but it doesn’t matter. It got them great PR for weeks.”
From PETA Senior Corporate Liaison David Byer’s perspective, the trend is a bit more substantial.
“It’s historical,” he says. “In the past, places like Denny’s and Johnny Rockets have had vegan burgers for a while now.”
Byer says the increase in popularity of vegan menu options could have a lasting impact on consumer habits and the market itself. Eateries can appeal to existing vegans with the luxury of convenience as well as to new and curious consumers.
“It’s an alternative that could take over the mainstream,” he says. “It gives people a chance to eat greener, eat healthier and help animals.”
In the name of journalism, I sent my mom and dad to the Columbus location to give Wendy's Black Bean Burger a try. Neither of them are vegan.
“The burger is good,” my mother Sara tells me. “It’s not too spicy but I don’t think the ranch sauce adds anything to the flavor and probably adds calories. Still, love the bun and the fresh spinach instead of iceberg lettuce. I would like to know the calorie content, though.”
My father Mark shared similar sentiments.
“I actually thought it was very good and the bun was toasted,” he says. “The sandwich itself has many fresh flavors: pepper, corn, black bean, cheese and sauce. Altogether, a nice alternative to a hamburger."
The parmesan-ranch sauce and cheese aren't vegan, but customers can choose to leave them out of sandwiches.
My parents aren't alone in liking the burger. The overall response to it has been positive, according to VegNews.