Fast food is a highly-competitive industry, and the stakes have grown since millennial-friendly fast casual restaurants like Chipotle have hit the scene. The ongoing struggle among fast food joints to increase customer traffic and loyalty has led some restaurants down unpredictable — and, at times, baffling — paths.
While McDonald’s has added healthy options to its menu, others have doubled down on fat and flavor. Here are a few odd fast food items in the U.S. that caught our eye this year.
Burger King: Mac n’ Cheetos
Macaroni and cheese isn’t the most obvious candidate for a fast-food reinvention, but Burger King gave it a serious shot over the summer. Mac n’ Cheetos was pitched as a warm, cheesy snack on-the-go. It was among this year’s oddest and most hyped-up mashups. The side dish consisted of finger-sized portions of macaroni and cheese coated with breading made from Cheetos. The finished product even looked somewhat like big, puffy Cheetos.
The experiment echoes Taco Bell’s successful Doritos Locos Tacos. BK’s Mac n’ Cheetos was apparently successful enough to justify a second Cheetos tie-in, too. The fast food restaurant now sells Cheetos-coated chicken fries, which could have made this list in their own right if it hadn’t been for Mac n’ Cheetos.
Price: $2.49 for a five-pack
McDonald’s: Sriracha Big Mac
As Wendy’s plans to roll out Bacon Sriracha Fries in select locations, McDonald’s will be testing out the Sriracha Big Mac. The restaurant already tested out a Big Mac Sriracha dipping sauce for fries and chicken nuggets in select locations in Southern California and Seattle.
Over 120 McDonald’s locations in the Centra Ohio area will be testing out this new Big Mac. If you already love hot sauce on your food, this spicy twist on a McDonald’s favorite will be an instant hit.
Burger King: Whopperito
Can’t decide between a burger and a burrito? Burger King has you covered with its Whopperito. It has burger fixings like a grilled patty, onions, tomatoes and pickles wrapped up burrito-style in a tortilla. Instead of the usual hamburger condiments, the chopped-up patty is dressed with a queso sauce.
The Whopperito rolled out nationwide in August, after successful testing in a limited number of locations. For Whopper lovers who eat on the road, the burrito-style item could be a boon: It’s less likely to drip sauce on you mid-commute.
Arby’s: Venison Sandwich
Arby’s has always been outside the fast food mainstream, building its business around layers of thin-sliced beef rather than hamburger patties. This year, the chain released a venison sandwich in popular hunting markets.
The sandwich’s debut coincided with the start of deer hunting season in six states: Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The sandwich was overwhelmingly popular, with local press reports indicating that most locations sold out almost immediately.
The Venison Sandwich offers a thick, marinated venison steak served on a soft bun with a juniper berry sauce and topped with crispy fried onions. The menu item was available on select dates in October and November.
Taco Bell: Naked Crispy Chicken Chalupa
A taco with a crispy chicken shell first appeared in test markets in 2015. But this year, Taco Bell revealed a chalupa-version in Kansas to great success. Now, the Naked Crispy Chicken Shell Chalupa is slated for a nationwide release in 2017.
The menu item has all the fixings of a chalupa but with a taco shell made of breaded, fried chicken breast. Already, 2017 is starting to look interesting.
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