Whether you call them French fries, chips, or frites, whether they come thick-cut, crinkled, straight, or curly, fries are a staple of the American diet, most notably at quick-serve restaurants. 

The taste of McDonald's French fries has played a critical role in the chain's success. Fries are more profitable than hamburgers. The secret to McDonald’s fries lies in the cooking oil, and for years McDonald’s cooked their fires in oil that was mostly composed of beef tallow. That changed about a decade ago when cholesterol criticism led them to switch to vegetable oil. But if you check their inventory of ingredients for their fries you’ll find “natural flavor” on the list.

Are French fries about to get the respect they deserve? Wendy’s, as part of a program to promote food made with more natural ingredients, has kicked off a national campaign heralding a new recipe for French fries. It’s a move that is positioned as the biggest overhaul of Wendy’s fries in 41 years. It is possible that Wendy’s new, natural approach will help to stem the decline of French fry servings over the past few years. From the news briefs, it appears they’ll be using Russet Burbank potatoes (the same used by McDonald’s). Wendy’s new recipe will keep the skins on, slice the potatoes thinner, fry them crisper, and sprinkle them with sea salt. No mention of their oil choice has been made.

According to the Brand Keys’ Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, here’s how the major chains rank specifically for their fries and their ratings versus the consumers' Ideal (100 percent) French Fry:

  • McDonald’s (91 percent)
  • Arby’s (89 percent)
  • Hardees (85 percent)
  • Carl Jr. (81 percent)
  • Nathan’s (80 percent)
  • Jack-in-the-Box/White Castle (75 percent each)
  • KFC/Chick-Fil-A (71 percent)
  • Wendy’s (65 percent)
  • Popeye’s (60 percent)
  • Sonic (58 percent)

A number of countries claim the fry as their own, but French peasant cuisine is most frequently credited as the creator of the dish and hence the nomenclature. They say this cuisine is the basis of a culinary art that is mostly composed of honest, natural elements.

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