Photo: Tim Horton.

Thanks to fast-food chains, meatless meats are no longer a niche product meant for vegetarians or vegans — they’re the norm. They’re making plant-based meat more affordable and accessible, and democratizing the alternative protein revolution.

Adopting meat alternatives is also a smart business play for QSR’s. Case and point: Del Taco and Burger King have reported sales increases in the months after they introduced plant-based meat options.

As alternative meats spread like wildfire onto fast-food menus, it can be hard to keep track of which chains have embraced meat alternatives and which are still mulling it over. To help straighten things out we decided to make a handy-dandy list showing which QSR’s in the U.S. and Canada have plant-based meat on their menus, what products they’re serving (Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, other), and even which restaurants refuse to touch the stuff with a 10-foot pole.

Click on the photo below to enlarge.

Photo: The Spoon

But this list is just a high-level overview. If you want more context into the plant-based meat strategies behind some of the most widespread fast-food restaurants, we’ve laid that out below.

Impossible Foods

Photo: the Impossible Whopper at Burger King.

Burger King: On April 1 Burger King launched a Whopper made with plant-based Impossible Foods patties in select St. Louis locations. Just a month later, the fast-food chain announced it would begin rolling out the Impossible Whopper in all of its 7,300 locations nationwide by the end of the year. First stop(s): Miami, Florida; Columbus, Georgia; and Montgomery, Alabama.

White Castle: White Castle was kind of the trendsetter of fast-food restaurants embracing plant-based meat. In April 2018 the chain first started serving the Impossible Slider for $1.99 at select locations on the East Coast before rolling it out nationwide in September of that year.

Qdoba: The Mexican food chain began testing bowls and tacos made with ground Impossible “beef” in February of 2019. As of May 2019, the plant-based options are available at all Qdoba locations.

Little Caesar’s: The new Impossible Supreme pie — featuring Impossible Foods sausage, green peppers, mushrooms and caramelized onions — is available at select Little Caesar’s in Florida, New Mexico and Washington State. The pizza chain plans to expand it to all of their stores if it proves popular.

Red Robin: As of April 2019, diners can sub an Impossible patty for any burger at all 570 Red Robin locations.

Cheesecake Factory: The Impossible Burger hopped on select Cheesecake Factory menus in August 2018.

Umami Burger: Umami Burger currently sells four different Impossible burgers.

Hard Rock Cafe: As of January of this year, patrons can get an Impossible cheeseburger at select Hard Rock Cafe locations.

Beyond Meat

Photo: Beyond Meat x Del Taco.

Del Taco: The fast-food Mexican restaurant began offering Beyond Meat’s plant-based “beef” as a protein option on their tacos, burritos, and bowls in September 2018. As of this April, it’s available at all 580 locations across the U.S.

Tim Horton’s: The Canadian fast-food chain added Beyond Meat sausages to their menus last month. Customers can add the plant-based sausage patty to three of Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwiches.

Applebee’s: The Beyond Burger is available at select Applebee’s locations in NYC.

Carl’s Jr.: Beyond Meat’s first big play into the fast-food burger space was with Carl’s Jr. The Beyond Famous Star burger debuted on Carl’s Jr. menus in January of 2019 and quickly spread to all of its 1,000+ locations. (We did a taste test, if you’re interested.)

TGI Friday’s: The fast-casual restaurant began testing Beyond Burgers on its menus in 2017, rolling them out to all 469 locations in January of 2018.

A&W: In July of 2018 Canadian fast-food chain A&W began selling the Beyond Burger. It’s currently available at all of their 925 locations in Canada.

Dunkin’: In July of 2019 Dunkin’ locations in Manhattan began selling a Beyond Breakfast Sausage Sandwich, making it the first place in the U.S. to serve Beyond’s plant-based sausage patties.

Subway: Subway will start testing a Beyond Meatball Marinara sandwich at 685 locations in the U.S. and Canada for a limited time in September 2019. Beyond developed a meatball specifically for the partnership.

To Be Determined

Photo: Chick-Fil-A

Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Dunkin’, Papa John’s: These chains are also rumored to be in talks with Impossible Foods to develop a plant-based menu option.

KFC: The fried chicken chain is meeting with plant-based protein suppliers to explore potential alternative chicken products.

Chick-fil-A: Last month Chick-fil-A announced that it was exploring new vegan entrée options, including one made with realistic plant-based meat. Exactly what type of entrée is still TBD, but according to Chick-fil-A’s executive menu director, it might be “some type of alternative meat on a sandwich.”

Taco Bell: The fast-food chain has a relatively hefty vegetarian menu but no plant-based meat options as of yet. In London Taco Bell briefly experimented with a meatless ground beef option made from pulled oats, but seems to have taken it off the menu.

Starbuck’s: Though they have plenty of alternative milk options, Starbuck’s has yet to introduce a plant-based meat option to their breakfast, lunch or snack offerings.

McDonald’s: Ah, the White Whale. Despite the fact that all its competitors seem to embracing plant-based meat, McDonald’s is hanging back. At a recent shareholder meeting the fast-food giant stated that it would introduce an alterna-meat menu item once it was sure that there was sufficient consumer demand. Over in Germany, McDonald’s serves Nestlé’s “bleeding” plant-based Incredible burger.

 

No Way

Photo: Arby’s Meat Mountain sandwich.

Arby’s: When Arby’s president Rob Lynch heard rumors that the chain was looking into a plant-based menu option featuring Impossible “meat,” he panicked — and then set the record straight. He stated categorically that Arby’s has no plans to introduce any meatless meat options to its menu, now or in the future.

Have you tried meatless meat at any fast-food chains? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!

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1 COMMENT

  1. For those QSRs that have had the meat alternatives on their menus for more than 6 months, have sales been maintained past the initial bounce at introduction? Once the hype wears off, it would be interesting to know whether demand has been sustained…

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