Barney Wolf

Barney Wolf is an Ohio-based freelancer for <em>QSR</em> magazine.

9 Fast Food Trends for 2015

The foods, ideas, and technologies that will leave a mark on the quick-serve industry this year.
Quick service restaurant trends to change industry in 2015 include Asian cuisine flavors.
Authentic Asian flavors becoming more present on quick-serve menus is one trend predicted to take off in 2015. thinkstock

Every time a new year gets under way, there’s a combination of promise and anxiety, a very real hope that better days are ahead mixed with uneasiness about what issues or problems may be lying in wait.

That’s why predictions seem to be as much a part of a New Year’s celebration as champagne and the ball drop in New York’s Times Square. For the restaurant industry, getting a peek into likely trends for 2015 provides some insight into the type of menu items that could give them smash successes in the year ahead—or a glimpse of the staggering challenges they’re left to overcome.

Putting Some Pop in Soda

Soda sales aren’t exactly bubbling at restaurants these days. In fact, they’ve been declining for years. Despite that, there’s fizz remaining in carbonated beverages as operators look toward craft sodas, new technology, homemade beverages, and creative concoctions to put effervescence into their sparkling libations.

“We’re seeing a lot of craft soda products available in the market, although it’s still very small,” says Joe Pawlak, beverage expert and senior vice president at Chicago market research firm Technomic Inc.

All Access: KFC

Headquarters tour shows brand hard at work on quality, consistency.
Quick service restaurant icon KFC is improving menu options while focusing on consistency.
KFC opened a new store prototype in its hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

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Images of the late Col. Harlan Sanders are everywhere as you walk through the Louisville, Kentucky, headquarters of KFC and its parent, Yum! Brands. Not only are there plenty of photos and videos of the company founder and creator of the world’s most popular fried chicken recipe, but there are also statues of him both standing and sitting, as well as an animatronic version in the onsite Col. Sanders Museum.

2014’s Top 9 Stories

The stories that made this year one of the most eventful in industry history.
Quick service brands make impact on restaurant industry with big news events.
Taco Bell made a splash in 2014 with its breakfast menu, which included the Waffle Taco. Taco Bell

It’s fair to say that 2014 has been as eventful a year for quick-service restaurants as the industry has seen in quite a while. Changing demographics and sharper competition have sparked a variety of innovations, but also exposed some weaknesses. And the unrelenting march of technology is changing the restaurant business landscape, particularly when it comes to mobile phones.

Sweet Success

Ah, chocolate. It’s an indulgence that’s impossible to ignore as a stand-alone food or ingredient. And, not surprisingly, chocolate proves to be sweet for consumers and restaurant operators alike. Even though it’s already part of menus at most limited-service eateries, more dining places continue to add chocolate items in new and innovative ways.

Pizza Hut Gets a Reboot

Largest pizza chain rolls out menu, marketing refresh.
Biggest fast food pizza brand innovates menu to appeal to Millennials.
Pizza Hut introduced 10 new crust-edge flavors, five new signature sauces, four drizzles, and five new ingredients. Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut rolled out a major brand reboot this week, a move that many see as an appeal to the Millennial generation and a response to the booming fast-casual industry.

The world’s largest pizza chain, a division of Yum! Brands, is adding a wave of new ingredients, some lower-calorie alternatives, reworked digital ordering, and even a new, circular logo, hoping that the changes will boost lagging sales.

Grabbing a Bite

Evolving eating habits and generational dynamics are changing the way we look at snacking. There’s no traditional time when Americans are looking for snacks—say, the middle of the afternoon. It’s the late morning, early evening, and late night, too. It’s as if there are as many dayparts for snacking as there are for full meals, if not more.

Top of Mind

Over the past century, Americans have developed a special craving for certain foods, both at home and in restaurants—items like burgers and fries, sandwiches and fried chicken.

And then there’s pizza. One of the nation’s most beloved meals, pizza is the sum of varied parts: crust, sauce, cheese, meat or other proteins, vegetables, and the baking style. All are important, but the toppings are the real ingredient that gives customers and operators alike room to play around with new flavors.

Fresh Bread

Bread may be the staff of life, but it’s really pretty basic: flour, water, yeast, and salt, or some sort of substitute for the latter two. However, the way these items are combined, as well as other ingredients that are added, can make a huge difference in taste and texture, as quick-service operators are increasingly discovering.

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