The world of fast-food burritos has experienced a real shake-up lately, thanks to one thing: plant-based meat.
Now if you’re hitting up the drive-thru at least two popular Mexican food chains, you can opt to replace the beef in your tacos/burritos/bowls with meatless meat. This April, Del Taco rolled out Beyond Meat to all of its menus. Just a month later, Qdoba began serving Impossible’s plant-based beef in all of its 730+ locations nationwide.
The meatless meat lines have been drawn, with Del Taco on one side with Beyond Meat and Qdoba on the other with Impossible. During an email interview with The Spoon, Qdoba’s CEO Keith Guilbault told me that the chain decided to go with Impossible over other plant-based meat suppliers because their “protein stood out for its unique texture and flavor.”
Jill Adams, Qdoba’s VP of Marketing, echoed the sentiment over the phone last month. “We landed on Impossible because it delivers on flavor,” she said. “There’s also high consumer awareness around the product.”
Because of this awareness, she told me that Qdoba had seen a wave of new customers come in specifically to try the Impossible products. In fact, according to Adams, when Qdoba tested Impossible menu items in Eastern Michigan this February they saw transactions grow 4 percent. “There was an immediate uptick,” she said.
The post-Impossible spike isn’t exactly surprising. Immediately after adding Beyond Meat “beef” to their menus, Del Taco reported an increase in both check size and overall food traffic. In fact, many QSR’s report an uptick in traffic and sales immediately after adding a plant-based meat option to their menus.
Whether that uptick will turn into a steady increase remains to be seen. However, for now Del Taco and Qdoba seem to have carved out their own corners. As of now, they don’t have any competition from other Mexican food QSR’s: Taco Bell has a new vegetarian menu but is steering clear of fake meat, whereas Chipotle recently announced that it wouldn’t serve Impossible or Beyond since they were too processed.
Qdoba and Del Taco’s menus are relatively similar, which means that the brand of plant-based meat (or lack thereof) they use could become a significant factor when people decide where they want to stop for fast-food burritos — especially as more and more diners become familiar with meatless meat. But for now, the simple fact that Qdoba and Del Taco both offer plant-based meat could be enough to lure in new customers; vegetarian, flexitarian and otherwise.