McDonald’s garlic fries may be its most successful test ever, Fortune magazine asserted soon after the new item was introduced at the beginning of May. Less than two weeks later, McD’s announced via its Bay Area Twitter handle that the four San Francisco stores in test had run out of the fries, and disappointed customers would have to wait a few weeks before supply could catch up with demand.
While it’s the Golden Arches’ amped-up iteration that made headlines, several other Top 500 chains are capitalizing on consumers’ penchant for seasoned fries (53 percent prefer them that way, Technomic research shows), using them as the vehicle for LTOs with trendy toppings and regional ingredients.
McDonald’s Gilroy Garlic Fries
Driving in some local appeal, McDonald’s flavors its iconic shoestring fries with garlic grown in nearby Gilroy, Calif., the self-proclaimed garlic capital of the world. McDonald’s plain fries usually are made ahead and sit under heat lamps, but these are tossed-to-order in a garlic-Parmesan mix in front of the customer, adding an interactive element but increasing labor. If the test continues to prove successful both operationally and in terms of sales, McDonald’s plans to roll out Gilroy Garlic Fries to about 250 Bay Area units in August.
Wendy’s Ghost Pepper Fries
Wendy’s returned its Ghost Pepper Fries for a limited time this spring, playing up the fiery peppers in the item’s name. The fries weren’t brought back for their mass appeal, however. In fact, they didn’t even do particularly well in test markets. But they did strike a chord with a loyal niche market; a lot of customers said they made special trips to Wendy’s specifically for the ultra-hot fries, the chain told Fast Company.
Red Robin’s Voodoo Fries
Last year’s poutine trend seems to have spawned a rise of loaded fries on menus. As a follow-up to its Great Northern Poutine Fries introduced in the fall, Red Robin ramped up the spice with its Voodoo Fries LTO this spring. So as not to detract from its signature bottomless fries, marketed as a side, the casual-dining chain promoted Voodoo Fries as an appetizer and sold them for $7.
Wienerschnitzel’s Blazin’ Fries
Wienerschnitzel debuted a Blazin’ Menu in March, featuring a sauce that’s a blend of red jalapenos and garlic as a topper for fries, a chili cheeseburger and a chili dog. In a deal likely targeted at heat-seeking millennial customers, the spicy trio is offered for $5 after 8 p.m. Another promotion extends the sauce beyond fries to three loaded tater-tot dishes, as well.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.