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Every year, fast-food chains slowly expand overseas, launch new menu items, and try out new marketing themes. And while certain things, like the McRib's return, are an annual occurrence everyone expects to happen, other items (looking at you, dessert nachos) always capture the media's attention.
Fast-casual chains like Applebee's don't count, but the chain's moves to be a more urban, hip establishment were mimicked by the fast-food category; other chains tried to add gourmet touches to their mass produced menus, launching "fresher" takes on classic menu items. There were some marketing faux pas along the way, some drama about politics, and a new movement to increase the wages of those working in the industry.
So here it is: the year in fast food. Whether you're a fan of McDonald's, a Burger King advocate, or simply one who wants validation for their anti-fast-food habits, these stories look back on whether the fast-food chains of today are the same as those of yesteryear. And In-N-Out fans? Well, there weren't any expansions this year, so you're out of luck.
Taco Bell Tried to Be Like Chipotle
The Mexican fusion fast food chain launched a menu that seemed suspiciously focused on burrito bowls, called the Cantina menu from Lorena Garcia (Top Chef). At the same time, Taco Bell solidified its reputation as stoner food of the world when they hinted at a Cool Ranch Doritos Locos taco, plus launched "restaurant-sized" nachos and churro desserts.
Pizza Hut Went a Little Overboard With Deals
First, they offered a ridiculous proposal package for Valentine's Day (every girl wants to celebrate with some pizza, obviously), then they offered free pizza for life for anyone who asked the presidential candidates their pizza topping preferences, sausage or pepperoni, during the presidential debates. Naturally, they rescinded the latter offer, because it was just dumb and people actually care about politics (true story), so when Christmas came around they just gave people $10 gift cards if they tweeted a photo of their lame Christmas present. Honestly though, we were really happy with our socks.
Multiple Restaurants Launched More Adventurous Menu Items Abroad
Wendy's in Japan got a lobster and caviar burger, as well as a foie gras version, KFC put a weird cheese slice on top of their cheese top burger in the Philippines, and Burger King did crazy promotions that allowed this guy to put 1,050 rashers of bacon on his burger (not to mention that truffle burger in Hong Kong). In the meantime, McDonald's launched baguette sandwiches in France, fancy pretzel burgers in Germany, and wine in South America. We're waiting for our lobster rolls, Mickey D.
McDonald’s Tried to Be Healthy
The fast food giant launched a new, “healthier” Happy Meal with a smaller portion of fries and newly-added sliced apples. Then the chain promoted a healthier menu for the Olympics and decided to post calorie counts on all its menus, but that still didn't change the fact that McDonald’s still has one of the unhealthiest “healthy” kids meals ever.
Burger King Tried Desperately to Win Second Place Back
Earlier this year, Wendy’s beat Burger King as the number two fast-food burger chain in America (McDonald’s was first, obviously). So naturally, Burger King did its best to win the title back. The chain tested a delivery service, signed on Mary J. Blige and David Beckham to do ads (one of which backfired), launched a bacon sundae, and even offered 55-cent Whoppers in honor of the 55-year-old Whopper.
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