For decades, fast food has largely been about the food. Chains like McDonald’s (MCD) – Get McDonald’s Corporation Report and Restaurant Brands International’s (QSR) – Get Restaurant Brands International Inc Report Burger King have tweaked their menu mainstays trying all sorts of new takes on the iconic Big Mac and Whopper.
They have done that while expanding their chicken offerings and even sticking a toe in the world of plant-based foods (though that hasn’t worked that well). Both chains have been endlessly innovating, but they’ve largely kept that innovation to the food side of the menu.
Sure, McDonald’s built out its coffee offerings by doing a sort of second-rate Starbucks (SBUX) – Get Starbucks Corporation Report knockoff, but drink innovation has not been a major area of change for McDonald’s or Burger King. Rival Taco Bell, however, has made interesting/bizarre beverages a mainstay of its menu. The Yum! Brands (YUM) – Get Yum! Brands, Inc. Report chain has made drinks as much a part of its ever-changing menu as it has made food.
No other chain has experimented with beverages as much as Taco Bell — even sister brands Pizza Hut and KFC have largely ignored that part of the menu — but Wendy’s has slowly made drink innovation a bigger part of its menu. Now, the number two U.S. burger chain (sorry, Burge King) has a new beverage to win over customers.
Wendy’s Adds a New Drink
McDonald’s and Burger King have largely stuck to the classic soda and shake model that burger chains pioneered. They have dabbled with other offerings (more Burger King than McDonald’s) but, the beverage of choice remains a soft drink (or, in more recent years, milk for kids and water for people looking for a healthy option).
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Taco Bell has been wildly innovative when it comes to the beverage side of the menu. It has offered everything from frozen, slush-style drinks to new flavors of Mountain Dew, various lemonades, and other novel drinks.
Wendy’s has followed that with a broad selection of lemonades joining its classic soda lineup. Now, the chain has expanded that offering to include a new take on the classic.
The fast-food chain has expanded its lineup of Dave’s Craft Lemonades to include Sunburst Melon Lemonade, Chewboom first reported.
“Described as the lemonade version of a fruit salad, new Sunburst Melon Lemonade mixes the brand’s all-natural lemonade with the sunny flavors of watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi, and strawberry,” the website reported. “You can find Sunburst Melon Lemonade at participating Wendy’s locations nationwide alongside the brand’s fresh lineup of Dave’s Craft Lemonades including Pineapple Mango Lemonade, All-Natural Lemonade, and Strawberry Lemonade.”
Why Do Fast-Food Drinks Matter?
Drinks come with a very high margin for restaurants. That can be especially important at fast-food chains where an innovative drink may drive lower-margin food sales. The beverage, which costs essentially nothing to make (the cup is usually the most expensive piece of it) can support higher costs for beef, chicken, and other ingredients leading to profitable checks.
“A large soft drink may only cost you a couple of dollars, but for restaurants that can translate up to a 90% profit margin. Each soft drink sold costs the restaurant less than a quarter,” Mashed reported. “High profit margins on soft drinks are one of the reasons that fast food restaurants can afford to offer cheap options like dollar menus. While they might actually lose money on those items, they more than make up for it in soda sales.”
And, while Americans have cut back on soda, alternatives, even ones that may not actually be better for you like lemonade, have become increasingly important when it comes to driving checks and margins higher. A unique beverage may drive someone to a restaurant, get them to spend more money on their meal, and have them feeling better about their decision because they opted to not have soda (even if they did not actually cut back on sugar or calories).