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Fries Get Funkier as Chains Limit LTOs

McDonald's is testing seasoned fries.

McDonald’s is testing seasoned fries.

Quick-service chains have slowed the rate of major LTO introductions. Fewer new creative entrees are joining menus as chains seek to avoid adding new ingredients or complicating operations. So where’s the innovation? Fries.

With protein prices high, burger chains and others are looking at new ways to make french fries—a famously high-profit menu item that both consumers and operators love—more attractive without requiring a major investment by operators. McDonald’s, which badly needs to draw attention and customer traffic, this month has changed the look of its famous fry box for the first time. World Cup designs from around the world adorn the boxes.

In St. Louis, McDonald’s has been testing a version of the shaker fries it serves in many overseas markets. The St. Louis test involves small packets of seasoning—Garlic Parmesan, Spicy Buffalo and Zesty Ranch—that can be sprinkled on the fries in the fry box or shaken with fries in the bag. Burger King offers its own take on this idea—Chicken Shaker Fries—in Australia.

Seasoned fries certainly aren’t a new idea, but several chains that haven’t tried them before—such as McDonald’s—are considering them again. It’s an inexpensive way to make menu news.

Back Yard Burgers; Garlic Parmesan Waffle Fries

Back Yard Burgers’ Garlic Parmesan Waffle Fries

Another major chain looking at the idea is KFC. In the UK, it is offering fries dusted with its Original Recipe seasoning. It’s the first time I can recall the chain putting its famously secret “11 herbs and spices” seasoning mix on something other than chicken.

Eat'n Park's Cheese & Gravy Fries

Eat’n Park’s Cheese & Gravy Fries

Back Yard Burgers’ new Garlic Parmesan Waffle Fries are a triple threat: waffle-cut potatoes tossed in garlic-herb seasoning and topped with grated Parmesan. Jack in the Box went waffle-cut, too, but with Sweet Potato Fries earlier this year.

Carl’s Jr. earlier this month added Bacon Ranch Fries, topped with, yes, bacon and ranch dressing. And one of the stars of family-dining chain Eat’n Park’s new “Park After Dark” late-night menu are Cheese & Gravy Fries. These would qualify as Canada’s beloved poutine if they had cheese curds instead of cheese sauce. But sadly they don’t. The fries are covered in gravy, Cheddar cheese sauce and green onions; then topped with shredded Cheddar.

Don’t underestimate fries’ importance to a proper burger meal. Fry fans take them very seriously, as Shake Shack found this month when it switched from its previous crinkle-cut fries to straight, hand-cut, skin-on Russet potato fries. The line of social-media wailers lamenting the change was almost as long as the lines for service at every Shake Shack.

2 comments to Fries Get Funkier as Chains Limit LTOs

  • Carey Lieberman

    Carey,

    Business Dining is ahead of the curve and it is driving sales.

    Dan Bednar

  • Bob Jacobs

    I was visiting Houston Texas and ran across a place called French Fry Heaven; the Mecca for Fry lovers like me!

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