With the likes of relative UK new comers Five Guys and health conscious Leon, has fast food finally grown up and exactly how will this affect mainstays such as McDonalds, KFC and Burger King?
There was always something magical about fast food for me as a child, living in the Scottish countryside mean that visits to McDonalds were rare and only happened once maybe twice a year on a trip to see relatives in Glasgow or Edinburgh, but as a child it was the best thing in the world. I’d never seen or tasted anything like it. I was entranced by the brightly lit menus, the sounds and the smells and the look on the faces of the other excited children around me. I thought it was incredible, I mean come on; it was a far stretch from the fish and chip shop down the road (that was as exotic as it got in our village). I can still remember pulling my toy out of the cardboard happy meal box and being in awe, fast food and a toy? As far as I was concerned it was kid heaven.
These days however as these things do happen; both myself and my taste buds have grown up, that’s not to say I became an elitist snob I still dip into those memories and that chain every now and again it’s just I know there’s more out there that’s better for me and probably better quality; I’m simply not a kid anymore. It’s not just me who has grown up though, the market has too, with more interest in more upscale burgers and of course burritos; the fast food industry has had no choice but to sit up and take notice, granted it has taken quite some time.
McDonalds has just released a range of premium burgers called ‘The Signature Collection’ made with thicker patties designed to compete with the vast array of new burger joints like Shake Shack and slightly older chains like GBK. Made fresh to order they take slightly longer to prepare at 6 minutes and come at a slightly pricier £6.19 for a meal. Served in a classic black carton these are part of McDonalds re-vamp to compete with the big boys along with McDonald’s new lay-outs and increased technology to the kitchens as well as offering table service at some restaurants.
Knowing that Burger King needs to offer a lot more to retain its market share, the brand will also be introducing new concepts. Burger King not wishing to be outdone has become the first UK fast food chain to be granted permission to sell alcohol. Although this is not UK wide and most applications to councils being refused Lambeth Council recently approved the idea, permitting Burger King’s Waterloo branch to sell beer between the hours of 11am to 8pm.
Under the licence, beer must be served in plastic containers with food and consumed on the premises. The beer itself is not allowed to be any stronger than 5% abv. The council also imposed additional rules upon Burger King, which included better staff training, increased record keeping, better CCTV, and increased management supervision. A spokesperson for the brand recently said “It’s very successful everywhere else so we’re just catching up with the rest of the world really, it’ll probably be an American beer to fall in line with the brand.”
Even the Colonel has gone ‘Hipster’ with a new look recently being firstly in Bracknell in 2014. The new store is meant to ‘reflect the heart of the home’ and features brick-effect walls across its two floors, exposed ceilings and art from commissioned artists reflecting the ingredients used in KFC’s meals. According to the press release, customers are ‘encouraged to relax in an informal and stylish setting, featuring a butcher’s block, timber plank kitchen tables, low-hanging copper light fixtures, and loose furniture.’
I have no idea what loose furniture means whether it indicates it’s shoddily made or just running rampant around the restaurant. The new look will also feature open plan kitchens which means you’ll be able to see the ‘chef’ creating your bucket of cluck. Let’s hope the décor is not the only thing that has been revamped though as in my experience it’s the food that needs a touch more sophistication and uniformity.
Will this new found maturity really be enough though? With a lot of Chefs now working with fast food concepts to bring not just speed but quality to the fast food industry it’s going to take a lot more than fancy packaging and improved décor to even compete never mind surpass the new big players. I doubt the big three are in danger of going the way of Wimpy but attitudes and trends around fast are changing all the time now with ever increasing options coming to the market place.
Being a kid is great but we all need to grow up at some point I guess.