If there's one thing to love about chain restaurants, it's their consistency and dependability. You know what you're likely going to get when stepping through the doors of McDonald's, the world's largest fast food franchise, for example -- and it is likely this steadfastness that contributes to its popularity among consumers and has led to its subsequent food industry domination. Regardless of your personal fast food favorite, you probably look forward to the familiarity of the look, order process, and taste associated with your chain of choice when pulling up to one of its locations. It's just human nature, after all.
Still, all chain restaurants must walk a fine line when it comes to sustaining their success. Evolving with the times to maintain relevance all while preserving the semblance of familiarity on which their customers rely is no simple feat.
In 2024, it appears that many of our favorites will be attempting to do just that. From new menu offerings to updated technology to embracing solar energy to ditching disposable cups, here are some of the biggest changes coming to your favorite fast food chains in 2024.
Read more: Fast Food Hamburgers Ranked Worst To Best
Burger King's Locations Will Be Getting Makeovers
Poor Burger King has found itself lagging in recent years. Since it lost its long-standing spot as the second bestselling burger chain to Wendy's in 2020, the Burger King franchise has been working tirelessly to return to relevance once again. In 2022, the company announced a new initiative titled "Reclaim The Flame," a two-year plan to upgrade everything from the company's tech to its marketing, to -- you guessed it -- the look of its physical locations.
A reported $200 million is going toward wide-scale remodels which will ramp up in 2024. Currently, there are but a handful of Burger King locations across the United States displaying the company's new "Sizzle" restaurant model -- a sleek new modern styling that showcases the company's classic colors in an updated design. Customers can expect more of the King's dining halls to go under construction in the coming year and open back up for business with a much more royal feel. Will it have the intended effect of returning the franchise to its former glory? That remains to be seen.
McDonald's Burgers Have Received An Upgrade
It's a taste that lingers in our minds and on our palates: McDonald's burgers. Making a change to one of the stalwarts of the world's most popular burger chain may seem like a big risk on the franchise's part. However, there have been consistent complaints lodged by customers over the years regarding flat buns, lukewarm cheese, and bland patties, all of which seem to have finally caught the attention of McDonald's higher-ups. In late 2023, the company announced that the new year would bring a franchise-wide change to both the ingredients and cooking process of the Big Macs, McDoubles, Cheeseburgers, and Hamburgers. It would utilize new seedy, toasted buns, temper cheese to allow for full melting, add fewer patties to the grill at the same time, and add onions. Finally, employees would slather a greater amount of sauce on top to create an all-around better-tasting experience.
But how is the upgraded McDonald's burger? According to a recent Mashed review conducted by one of our very own taste testers, these changes have indeed rendered a better product. After a side-by-side comparison with the old-style burger, we concluded that the new McDonald's burgers are juicer, more moist, more flavorful, provide an appropriate level of delicious sauce, and have abandoned the raw onion flavor that lingered on the palate after we dined on the original variant. Overall, we're sufficiently convinced of this updated burger's greatness.
Starbucks Is Letting Customers Bring In Reusable Cups
Sustainability has become an important topic in nearly every industry on the planet, including fast food. With millions of consumers placing orders daily -- and nearly every single one of them receiving disposable goods -- it isn't hard to imagine how quickly the waste adds up. Many companies are beginning to realize the effects this may have on the Earth, and have implemented plans for reducing their carbon footprints in the coming years. This includes Starbucks, which will introduce a new reusable cup policy in 2024.
As part of its plan to cut its overall waste production in half by 2030, Starbucks will become the first large-scale coffee company that allows customers to bring in reusable cups. To help customers get into the habit of bringing in cups, the chain will offer a 10% discount to those who participate. The long-term plan is that this will become the company's permanent business model, meaning single-use cups will leave the chain altogether. Considering that Starbucks is the world's largest coffee chain, we can only imagine how much this change may reduce the amount of trash tossed into landfills.
Taco Bell Is Offering A New Cravings Value Menu
Let's face it: eating out can be costly. Even some of our least expensive chain options have hiked up prices in recent years, responding to things like inflation and heightened employee wages. Watching numbers rise at many of our favorite fast food spots has become expected. However, Taco Bell is granting our wallets a breath of fresh air in 2024 by doing something that very few large franchises seem to have done lately: offering up delicious menu items at reduced cost.
Starting in 2023, the celebrated Southwestern-style chain will be listing a whopping 10 items on a brand new Cravings Value Menu -- a collection of entrees that include a Spicy Potato Soft Taco and a Cheesy Double Beef Burrito -- which will all be priced at $3 or less. Vegetarians will also be able to find new delectable plant-based options without breaking the bank (traditionally a near-impossible undertaking) through the franchise's new Veggie Build-Your-Own-Cravings box. The Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme or the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito are just two of the selections that can be part of a filling, meat-free $5.99 box. All in all, that makes for a pretty wonderful new offer if you ask us.
KFC Is Adding Two New Wraps To Its Lineup
Any KFC regular is sure to be familiar with the company's wraps -- specifically, the ever-popular 2 for $5 KFC Wraps menu offering. In the past, these tortilla-and-chicken creations have included Classic, Mac & Cheese, and Spicy Slaw flavors, and for a mere five bucks, you could select your favorite two of the three and demolish them in your car on the way home. But in 2024, KFC has upped its wrap game with the introduction of two brand new flavors: Honey BBQ and Spicy Mac & Cheese.
True to its name, the Spicy Mac & Cheese Chicken Wrap is made with a soft flour tortilla that is rolled around a crispy chicken tender, macaroni and cheese, spicy mayonnaise, and shredded cheese. Meanwhile, the Honey BBQ Chicken Wrap includes pickles, regular mayonnaise, honey barbecue sauce, and a crunchy cut of chicken. If we're being honest, both of these sound delicious. So, the next time you're wondering what to grab when you swing by the Colonel's kitchen, consider giving one of these new snacks a try.
Domino's Is Upping Technology For Employee And Consumer Use Alike
Many of us are familiar with Domino's state-of-the-art online pizza ordering system. The chain's Cal-O-Meter and GPS-powered pizza tracker are just a few of the ways Domino's has made the online ordering experience easy for consumers. In 2024, the chain will reportedly be stepping things up even furthe with a slew of technological advancements that could make things not only easier for consumers but for its employees, as well.
In December 2023, the company announced its plans for changes in the following year, which included several technological upgrades. Both the company's app and website will undergo radical changes to make them appear more modern and attractive, and a brand-new product builder will be implemented to make things easier for customers to construct their pizzas. In the Domino's kitchens, a shiny new and proprietary AI system -- dubbed Dom.OS -- will help workers manage orders more smoothly, while new ovens and a better scheduling tool will better manage workers' hours. With all these high-tech changes, Domino's is well on its way to becoming a pizza chain of the future.
Jersey Mike's Is Going International
Jersey Mike's has grown exponentially since it first got its start way back in 1956 in New Jersey. It has since become one of the United States' most popular sandwich chains alongside the likes of Subway, Arby's, and Panera Bread. But ever since it debuted its menu full of pillowy sandwiches stuffed with delectable meats and cheeses, Jersey Mike's has maintained an almost exclusively American presence. Until 2024, that is.
Hand in hand with one of Canada's biggest restaurant operators, Redberry, Jersey Mike's has struck an agreement to begin its expansion into Canada. The plan is to have 300 locations operating in the country by 2034, a goal that began in 2023 with the sprucing up of the franchise's two existing Ontario locations in Kitchener and London. The chain will also begin construction of five new Canadian restaurants. This deal is Jersey Mike's first major dip into international waters -- a significant marker of success for any business, to be sure. It's surely looking forward to feeding brand-new Canadian customers.
Chick-Fil-A Will Be Opening Hip New Restaurant Locations
Chick-fil-A is the best-selling chicken chain in the United States by a landslide. The franchise sold 527 million chicken sandwiches in 2022 and it seems to have no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Chick-fil-A will be experimenting with two brand new location types in 2024: restaurants that will reportedly focus heavily on drive-thrus and digital sales trends.
The first model, a drive-thru-only restaurant that will open in Atlanta in 2024, will give patrons the option to order from an employee or via their phones by pulling into the designated Mobile Thru lanes. This location will reportedly have the capacity to fit up to 75 cars The second new restaurant model, a walk-up-only design, was created with busy cities in mind -- places in which heavy traffic has prevented traditional Chick-fil-A stores from functioning adequately. Customers will place advance orders via the company's app and then pick them up at the window. This second test location will open in New York City, the perfect spot for such a design to prove successful.
Chipotle Is Going Solar-Powered
In the modern era, many companies are striving to use environmentally friendly renewable energy. This is often easier said than done, as it's not always simple to change the way a company draws its power. However, Chipotle is making some substantial moves in 2024 toward reaching this goal. That's because the chain, which is well known for its epic bowls, burritos, and quesadillas, is going solar-powered.
In 2023, the company announced its plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. This includes scrapping gas-powered grills used in its restaurants and moving toward a more abundant renewable energy source: the sun. So far, only a few of Chipotle's locations have been outfitted for the use of solar energy, most obviously in the form of solar panels installed on restaurant roofs. However, customers can expect to see more of those panels popping up on Chipotle restaurant roofs, as the company has set of goal of installing panels in 100 locations by the end of 2024. The company's new environmentally-friendly stores will provide electric car charging stations, biodegradable plates and bowls, and decor made from recycled materials. Way to think green, Chipotle.
Pizza Hut Is Amping Up The Heat With A New Pizza Flavor
We have to hand it to Pizza Hut: it certainly does its homework when researching what consumers want. The chain, which operates as a buffet-style restaurant as well as a classic pizza delivery and takeout service, has never been afraid of developing new and interesting flavor combinations in response to culinary trends. In 2024, it will continue doing just that.
Using survey information regarding pizza preferences across the U.S., which it published via a press release, Pizza Hut has concluded that both sweet and spicy pizzas, as well as thin crust variants, will be amongst its top desired products in 2024. This means that the franchise will maintain its current wide-scale offering of thin crust pizzas in its restaurants. It will also create some brand-new menu products to meet that consumer demand. To that end, starting February 1st, the new Hot Honey Pizza and Hot Honey Wings will go up for grabs at select locations. While these products will be available for a limited time only, they might stick around. Given that Pizza Hut's research put sweet and spicy flavor combos at a 38% increase, there is a chance the Pizza Hut hot honey line could end up on the menu to stay ... if consumers eat it up the way Pizza Hut expects them to, that is.
Boston Market Is Attempting To Bring In New Franchisees
There's no other way to put it: Boston Market is floundering. After over 100 lawsuits, numerous restaurant closings, its owner filing for bankruptcy, and the beginnings of a Department of Labor investigation in late 2023, the future of the chain has appeared bleak for quite some time. Though many consumers consider it a lost cause, Boston Market surprised many by announcing changes for 2024.
These include the Boston Market Connect program, which was part of the first public announcement from the company in 18 months -- the chain had previously been eerily silent while it was pelted by its various hardships. Boston Market Connect will essentially offer up Boston Market locations to franchisees at an almost unbelievable deal that includes zero franchise fees. This, of course, will hopefully motivate talented, energetic franchisees to swoop in and cause some good to happen for the company. Boston Market has also pledged to offer up a new menu item every six weeks throughout the year. Could these changes bring it back from the brink? We'll have to wait to find out.
Wendy's Will Grow Its AI-Powered Drive-Thru System
The use of artificial intelligence is turning out to be the way of the technological future. Yet, while many fast food companies are experimenting with its use for making drive-thru operations work more smoothly there hasn't been much luck as far as working out the kinks and making robotic order-takers function well in practice. But could Wendy's have finally cracked the code as to how to implement AI successfully in its drive-thru lanes? Perhaps.
2024 may just be the year we have a working AI-powered drive-thru at the chain serving up its fast food take on chili and its famous Frosty. The company announced that it is feeling confident enough in its technology -- which it developed and tested earlier with the help of Google Cloud -- to expand the program in 2024. This year, franchisees will have the ability to utilize the AI chatbot in their drive-thru lanes. The hope is that this new technology will make things run faster in drive-thru lanes, subsequently making the whole operation work more smoothly for customers and employees alike. However, we're exercising caution, as there have been many past cases where order-taking AI has done the opposite. At some point, however, we have to believe that some companies will get it right. Could that happen in 2024 and could that breakthrough company be Wendy's? We'll be watching developments closely as the technology rolls out in Wendy's locations near us.
Read the original article on Mashed.