The battle for the late-night audience doesn’t only involve Leno, Letterman and Kimmel. Taco Bell’s “Fourth Meal” campaign in 2007 made late night its own daypart, but recently chains have been creating menus and promotions available only in those wee hours.
Wendy’s began with a “Better Later” campaign that made diners aware that many of its locations are open until midnight, with some open later. Now it has something special for those who get hungry in dark: a $5 Moonlight Meal Deal available only after 10 p.m. The meal includes a Double Stack burger, Chili Cheese Fries and large drink. That meal totals from 970 to 1,300 calories depending on the drink choice.
In a handful of California markets—San Francisco, Monterey and Salinas—Jack in the Box is testing a bigger late-night menu. Its $6 Munchie Meals all include two tacos and “Halfsies” (regular and curly fries) plus one of four special entrées. One is the Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger, a grilled cheese sandwich on top of a cheeseburger. Other choices are the Exploding Cheesy Chicken (mozzarella sticks on a chicken patty), Loaded Nuggets (chicken nuggets with two cheeses, ranch sauce and bacon) and a Brunch Burger, the first (to my knowledge) burger topped with a fried egg (and hash browns) served by a major national burger chain.
Late-night offerings already are going over the top, as evidenced by Steak ‘n Shake’s new AllNighter Menu, available midnight to 11 a.m. The star of that menu is the 1,330-calorie, seven-patty 7 x7 Steakburger for $7.77.
McDonald’s continues to be more interested in extending breakfast hours than late-night hours. Its “Breakfast After Midnight” test serves a limited breakfast between midnight and 4 a.m., when it goes full breakfast. The other test, called “McDonald’s After Midnight” offers both a breakfast and a limited burger menu from midnight until 4 a.m. when it shifts to breakfast only.
Burger King, which struggled to get some franchisees to adopt later hours, hasn’t gotten into the late-night-menu game yet but it’s expected to join this summer.