While burgers and beer have always been two items often consumed together, fast food chains have generally offered one, not the other.
That's likely because while it's possible to have a brew with a burger at a backyard barbecue or at a casual sit-down restaurant/sports bar, most fast food joints don't have alcohol of any type on the menu. Despite that Wendy's (NASDAQ:WEN) has followed rivals Carl's Jr. and Hardee's (both owned by the same parent company) into offering a beer-infused burger.
For Wendy's, it's only a small test, but like Sriracha, Doritos, Cheetos, and other flavors fast food chains have experimented with, beer is a familiar taste many people enjoy. Combining well-liked tastes with menu items has proven to be a winning formula for a number of chains and there's no reason to think it won't work at the place famous for its square patties.
What is Wendy's doing?
A Wendy's in Houston, Texas has been offering a Bacon & Beer Cheeseburger, GrubGrade reported. The new menu item includes the burger, applewood-smoked bacon, beer cheese spread, caramelized onions, and a pretzel bun. The burger on its own cost $5.29 while it's being sold as part of a combo with fries and a drink for $7.19.
What are other chains doing?
Wendy's is not alone in mixing beer and burgers. Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have partnered with Anheuser Busch Inbev (NYSE:BUD) to create the Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger. Served on a brioche-style bun, the new burger includes a charbroiled, grass-fed, all-natural beef patty "piled high" with thick-cut Applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions and Swiss cheese, according to a press release. The burger is then topped with Budweiser beer cheese sauce -- a hot and creamy cheddar cheese sauce blended with the classic taste of America's No. 1 full-flavored lager. The two sister chains also now serve fries topped with the same hot beer cheese sauce and sprinkled with crumbled bacon.
In addition to what Wendy's and Carl's Jr./Hardee's have been doing, Red Robin (NASDAQ:RRGB) has sort of a reverse take on the trend. Instead of a beer-inspired burger it has introduced a burger-inspired beer.
The fast-casual chain has partnered with New Belgium to create Grilled Pineapple Golden Ale, a special release beer inspired by Red Robin's famous Banzai Burger. The recipe for the Banzai Burger features a fresh, fire-grilled patty glazed in teriyaki, topped with grilled pineapple, cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo on a sesame seed bun. To accurately capture the unique components of the burger, New Belgium developed the beer to complement the burger's teriyaki and pineapple flavor profile, according to a press release.
"Our collaboration with New Belgium to create the Grilled Pineapple Golden Ale showcases our creative approach to innovation," said Red Robin Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Muhtar, "We are excited to tap into beer lovers' craving for unique beer offerings and complement the Banzai burger, one of our most popular burgers, in an entirely new and refreshing way!"
Is this the next big thing?
There have been some very big hits mixing familiar flavors with fast food menu items. The problem here is that while making a taco shell out of Doritos appeals to all ages -- and kids might drag their parents out to try it -- a beer-infused burger would automatically skew adult. Even though these burgers are non-alcoholic and suitable for all ages, they're not likely to appeal to demographics not used to mixing the two flavors.
Wendy's is smart to test this burger, because it's easy to see an audience for it, but also reasonable to think it might have limited appeal. Carl's Jr./Hardee's made a strong move partnering with Budweiser and Wendy's may want to consider a similar deal before rolling this idea out nationwide.