The New Year brought new news to QSR menus, from dessert innovations to healthier options. To celebrate the end of January — in which most of us endured a polar vortex or some failed resolutions – we are taking a look back on some of these menu introductions.
El Pollo Loco wooed those New Year's resolutioners with a late December launch of its 5 Meals Under 500 Calories menu. The lineup of entrees features everything from a mango grilled tostado to an avocado salad.
Long John Silver's announced that its transition away from transfats is now complete, just in time for the portable Dippin' Fish Strips' introduction.
White Castle added some grilled chicken variations of its signature Slider, including pineapple Teriyaki. The brand also unveiled a new potato bacon chowder soup.
Arby's partnered with the Alaska Seafood organization for the return of its Reel Big Fillet Fish. And, Dunkin' Donuts added whole wheat bagel and multigrain flatbread options to its DDSMART menu.
For those defiant of such resolutions, Whataburger's Monterey Melt burger made its way back to the menu, while Jack in the Box introduced its Bacon Insider burger — with six half slices of bacon and a creamy bacon may sauce.
Sonic added a new chili cheese pretzel dog to its pretzel dog lineup that already included a cheesy bacon pretzel dog and original pretzel dog. Sonic also now features Salsa Verde on its breakfast menu, available with the breakfast burrito or breakfast toaster sandwich.
Taco Bell added two new Loaded Griller flavors to the menu — Chipotle Ranch Chicken and Chili Cheese Fries.
Additionally, Wendy's added ciabatta bread for its new Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger, inspired by Mediterranean cuisine.
Roy Rogers introduced the Gold Rush Hot Ham N Cheese sandwich, topped with a golden sauce that includes flavors of honey, barbeque and brown sugar. Burger King spiced up its signature chicken sandwich, adding peppers and spices to the original.
Church's Chicken's tender strips returned with two new dipping sauces, including Purple Pepper Sauce, a sweet heat jalapeño jelly sauce.
And, taking a page from QSR giant Taco Bell, Cincinnati's Gold Star Chili partnered with the Doritos brand for the new Gold Star Chili Doritos Nachos.
Dessert and beverage innovation
Dessert and beverage innovation continued to accelerate in the QSR space. Carl's Jr.'s cookie ice cream sandwich offering, first introduced last year, now comes in snickerdoodle flavor. Wienerschnitzel is now offering cake battered dipped cones, and Dunkin' Donuts released cookie dough donuts and brownie batter donuts in time for Valentine's Day. Also to mark St. Cupid's big day, Krispy Kreme is now selling X and O-shaped donuts.
Rita's Italian Ice came up with a sugar-free Dragonfruit Ice flavor, while Carvel promoted a new Oreo Mint flavor. Judging by our social media conversations, the most unusual dessert launch in January came courtesy of Baskin-Robbins, and its new Move Theater Popcorn flavored ice cream.
For beverages, Taco Bell had the most ambitious rollout, adding six new drinks to the menu, including the apple-flavored Manzanita Sol, the low-calorie Diet Mtn Dew Baja Blast and Mtn Dew Sangrita Blast.
Dunkin' Donuts extended its retail footprint with new branded coffee creamers at grocery outlets nationwide, and Seattle's Best Coffee jumped into the single-cup retail space. Dunkin's restaurant locations rolled out salted caramel hot chocolate and brown sugar cinnamon coffee and lattes.
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappés are now available at McDonald's, while Tim Hortons added new caramel crunch mocha lattes.
Check out some of this month's menu launches.
Read more about food and beverage rollouts.
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.