Categories
Drinks Fast Food What's New

Sonic’s Newest Slush Is Made With Carolina Reapers, One Of The World’s Spiciest Chilies

Sonic has been getting experimental with their Slushes lately. Last year, they came out with a Pickle Juice version that polarized the internet for its sweet yet savory flavor. They’re going down the savory route again with their newest slush, but with an immense explosion of heat as well.

Photo courtesy of Sonic

As part of their new Mocktail Slush series, Sonic has unveiled a Reaper Margarita Slush that’s made with Carolina Reapers, one of the hottest chilies in the world. With a potency of over 2 million Scoville heat units, these peppers are at least 250 times hotter than a jalapeno.

While the Slush’s sugary content definitely takes down the heat a bit, Foodbeast has been told that this chili-infused drink still packs a ton of heat. It takes a few seconds for it to kick in, but the slow burn is one that comes on fierce.

Sonic is encouraging people to do a “#ReaperChallenge” on social media as well, meaning that they know just how much spice is coming in this icy drink. Having eaten foods made with Carolina Reapers before, I’m already dreading just how much this one is gonna hurt when I take that first sip.

UPDATE: Having tried this new Slush out, it is without question the hottest thing a fast food chain has ever released. While the drink isn’t as spicy as a Carolina Reaper, it packs a lot of punch, with more fire to it than some ghost pepper hot sauces out there. It does take more than a few sips to get the full effect of the heat, but it’ll leave your throat, tongue, and lips burning for 20 minutes or so after eating. It’s gonna definitely be a challenge for many to even just finish the frozen drink.

The Reaper Margarita Slush will be around at Sonic Drive-In locations nationwide until August 4th.

Categories
Drinks Fast Food Sweets What's New

Red Bull’s First Foray Into Fast Food Is Sonic’s New Red Bull Slushes

Iconic energy drink Red Bull has teamed up with a fast food chain and created a menu item for the first time ever.

Photo courtesy of Sonic Drive-In

The new item is Sonic Drive-In’s Red Bull Slush, which takes the chain’s well-known lineup of frozen beverages and blends Red Bull into it. It’s available in two official flavors, Original and Cherry Limeade, but you always have the option to customize these with your own flavor additions.

This collab marks Red Bull’s first ever official fast food item, although it has teamed up with Steak ‘n Shake in the past to put its cans in restaurants. Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have also teamed up with Monster in the past to create the first ever fast food energy drink item.

Sonic customers will also be able to buy cans of Red Bull at locations nationwide as a part of the energy drink’s partnership. Both the cans and the Red Bull are available starting April 29th at $2.99 each.

If you’re at Week 1 of Coachella, or in Phoenix or Dallas, however, you’ll get a chance to try these early. The Red Bull Slushes will be at the invitation-only MOSCHINO after-party on Saturday, April 13th, just outside of Coachella. Phoenix and Dallas will get these on April 18th and April 25th, respectively, as a part of two different Sonic Block Parties. The Phoenix one will occur at CityScape Phoenix, while Dallas’s party will be at The Truck Yard.

Categories
Fast Food News Restaurants

Sonic Drive-In Was Just Sold To Arby’s Owner For $2.3 Billion, Creating A New Fast Food Powerhouse

Sonic Drive-In is now under the same company that controls Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, as it was just sold to Inspire Brands for a staggering $2.3 billion.

sonic drive-inPhoto: Mike Mozart // Flickr, CC 2.0

The sale takes Sonic out of the publicly traded-market and makes it a privately-owned fast food chain, as Inspire Brands is under the control of private equity firm Roark Capital. According to CNBC, that gives the business a fast food empire of more than 8,000 restaurants valued at $12 billion total.

For Sonic fans, though, going from public to private marks a major turning point for the drive-in chain. As a private company, they can focus more resources on growth and innovation, something Inspire Brands wants to happen. Sonic has diversified itself in the tech and food sectors of fast food, with the mushroom-packed Signature Slinger and their app’s revolutionary order speed turning heads this year.

Inspire hopes to take Sonic’s customizable menu to a new level, and while it is already quite malleable, it’ll be creative new items and growth in technology that’ll help Sonic grow even further in the coming years.

Sonic can also leverage its new partner to grow and expand its presence to cities and states it isn’t in yet. They currently have about 3,500 locations in 44 states, but they can use their resources to expand to all 50 much more quickly. This would make them a bigger threat and competitor to companies like McDonald’s, especially with the fact that Sonic can process several customers at once, thanks to their unique technology and restaurant model.

Thanks to their innovations over the past year, Sonic is presenting a refreshing take on what the old school drive-in can be. And now, they have the backing and partners to bring that model to even more people and use it to challenge some of the industry’s biggest names. It’ll be interesting to see just how competitive Sonic becomes in the coming years.

Categories
Culture Fast Food Features

Why Items Like The Naked Chicken Chalupa Could Someday Hit The Permanent Menu

The Naked Chicken Chalupa was one of Taco Bell’s most successful product launches, and yet, it was only available for a brief six weeks before disappearing.

It’s back now, but will only be available for a couple of months. Even with such initial success and hype over the Naked Chicken Chalupa, whether it will ever become a permanent menu item or not is still in the air.

hype fast food item

Photo courtesy of Taco Bell

It turns out that fast food chains in general, including Taco Bell, have complex systems that determine whether an item can stay for good or come back in periodic intervals. Taco Bell’s Manager of Product Development, Rene Pisciotti, broke down his company’s process:

“Everything that goes on menu for permanency or LTO (limited time only) has to serve a purpose. It has to fill a consumer need or gap. What we [also] need to make sure is that the consumer experience is the same with that product day in and day out. If there’s any jeopardy of it being different, not being made right or executed properly, unfortunately we have to take it out of consideration for permanency. The second consideration is where this product lies from a sales standpoint. Meaning, if I buy that, am I choosing to buy something different, or am I buying that alongside what I usually order. If they can both live in harmony, that’s fine, but if there’s an impact to ingredients and their quality, then it becomes problematic.”

With the Naked Chicken Chalupa, Pisciotti’s biggest concern is that the fried chicken shell makes it a tough product for Taco Bell staff to make. The extra labor and ingredients make it a little more challenging, but if the demand rises and operators can consistently punch them out, the Naked Chicken Chalupa could merit consideration for a spot on the permanent menu.

sonic signature slingers

Photo courtesy of Sonic Drive-In

Taco Bell’s not the only chain going through some considerations with their most buzzworthy items.

Sonic Drive-In just brought their Signature Slingers onto the national menu for a short period, and the next steps for them is to consider whether it’ll be a permanent item or not. Culinary Director Scott Uehlein told Foodbeast that the Slinger will “have to earn its way” into that spot.

For the Slinger to hit the full-time menu, it needs to sustain sales once the advertising campaigns around the mushroom-blended burger subside, Uehlein said. That will establish proof that the burger can be successful on its own, making it worthy of consideration for a continual duration on the menu.

The Slinger is unique for Uehlein’s team because of how groundbreaking it was upon launch. Nobody in fast food had considered a blended burger up to that point.

Uehlein said that the Slinger will have some extra, in-house considerations when the team decides whether to give it an indefinite spot in their lineup.

Photo courtesy of California Tortilla

While Taco Bell and Sonic tend to launch items for a limited run prior to permanent consideration, other businesses look at current items to see if they should be continued or not. This is the case for California Tortilla, an East Coast fusion burrito chain. CEO Keith Goldman’s menu concept merits the more continuous cycle of LTOs, as his restaurants bring in flavors from all over the world, like Korean BBQ or Chicken Tikka Masala.

Goldman is continuously rotating new LTOs through his lineup every 12-18 months to keep customers excited, but also utilizes it as a testing ground for permanency. “About 60 percent of our current menu was a limited-time item,” he divulged. He does have some criteria outside of success that are evaluated when he’s thinking about making an item permanent.

Simplicity in operations and recipes is a big one, so that staff across all of his locations can replicate the product perfectly. Seasonality can also be a factor for Goldman, who runs a Bangkok Shrimp option on his menu throughout the summer for something customers can look forward to annually. It helps him build customer loyalty while maintaining a constant stream of new customers enticed by the latest limited-time offering.

Across these three chains, a consistent pattern of success, functionality, and ease of operations exists when considering whether to make hype fast food items permanent.

Nonetheless, customer demand continues to be a huge factor on all accounts, so if your favorite item keeps leaving and coming back, just know that there is hope for it to stay on the menu for good one day. The chains just have to figure out how to manage demand, and flawlessly incorporate them into their systems first.

Categories
Fast Food Technology What's New

Sonic’s Revamped App Is About To Make Other Drive-Thrus Feel Ancient

When it comes to speed and convenience, none of the major fast food chains have a clear advantage. In general, you roll up to an ordering station, pay, and get your food within a few minutes. If there’s lines, chances are it’ll take even longer.

Sonic Drive-In is looking to shake up that aspect of the fast food game with their new app, which has the potential to beat out everybody else on swiftness and efficiency. The new tech allows Sonic to cook, prep, and deliver several meals at once, meaning that convenience isn’t just for who gets in the drive-thru line first.

new sonic app

Photo: Mike Mozart // Flickr

While the new programming is still undergoing testing, Foodbeast recently had the opportunity to try the revamped app. It features a pay-ahead system that can serve multiple customers at a single drive-in simultaneously. You order and pay for your food, then select a pick-up time at a nearby Sonic location of your choosing. Once there, you simply enter the stall number you’ve parked at, and the app connects to that stall and the entire restaurant, letting the kitchen team know you’ve arrived. They’ll then finish any necessary prep and bring out your food piping hot.

When we tested the app out, the order came out about a minute after we plugged in what stall we had arrived at. This was in a similar time frame to CEO Cliff Hudson’s trial of the new system at a test location. He told Foodbeast that once he had parked, the food was out to his stall in “no more than 45 seconds.”

The key to Sonic’s upgraded speed, according to Hudson, is the chain’s new point-of-sales system. Whereas most fast food establishments are built on a sequential ordering system, Sonic’s new program is quantum-based. This means that the majority of QSR chains can only take on meals in the order they are put into the system, but a single Sonic location can handle multiple advance orders from the app at once.

For example, if 10 cars that have pre-ordered food on the app arrive concurrently, the restaurant can get their meals out to all of them in swift fashion. It beats having to wait behind a few other cars before getting the chance to order your food. It’s even quicker than current mobile pickup order models, where only one parking spot (maybe two) is available at a time.

Hudson feels that this new technology could potentially change the definition of convenience. He told Foodbeast that the “competition will have a real hard time mimicking” what Sonic has done with this app, which delivers on speed, efficiency, and accuracy.

The new Sonic app is currently undergoing testing in Louisiana and Oklahoma to work out any kinks before Sonic begins to roll it out to more markets sometime in April or May. There’s no specific timetable yet as to when it will expand nationwide.

Categories
Fast Food Hit-Or-Miss

America’s Favorite Fast Food Brands Reimagined As NBA Greats

For sports fanatics, a lifetime can be spent debating the greatest athletes in history. Due to the world’s increasing obsession with food over the last few years, eaters have come to think of their favorite restaurants in a competitive sense, too.

With so much competition in the fast food industry especially, brands are competing on every level in an attempt to gain supremacy.

If fast food chains were NBA legends, which brands would make the starting lineup?

Based on a list of 27 major fast food chains in the United States and the greatest NBA players of all time, FOODBEAST Managing Editor Reach, Co-founder Elie, and I discussed our ideal fast food starting lineups during The Katchup Podcast.

Without looking at sales figures, or locations, here’s who made our squad.

Taco Bell — Steph Curry, Point Guard

Steph Curry Facebook/@VegasDining (Instagram)

Steph Curry recently became the NBA’s highest paid player ever after signing a $201 million contract. He is considered one of the league’s most talented shooters with the ability to score anywhere on the court. Some may even say he’s the greatest shooter of all time.

Like Curry, Taco Bell isn’t afraid to shoot. And as of late, The Bell has been doing a lot of shooting from long range — and scoring. Having developed cantinas and full-service weddings in Las Vegas, Taco Bell innovation has extended far beyond food.

Still, with current releases like the Naked Chicken Chips and the Naked Chicken Chalupa, it shows Taco Bell isn’t afraid to stand by items that don’t necessarily fit under the traditional Taco Bell umbrella.

Additionally, in 2016, after lowering sodium levels across the menu, it was reported that Taco Bell had become one of America’s healthiest fast food chains. In terms of, “fast food goals,” Taco Bell is leading the way.

Notable accolades: 2x NBA Champion, 2x Regular Season MVP

 

McDonald’s — Michael Jordan, Shooting Guard

@basketballandshoes101/@micheal_the_official_account

Like it or not, the fast food industry wouldn’t be what it is today without McDonald’s. The same could be said about the game of basketball and Michael Jordan — who many consider to be the greatest basketball player of all time.

Let’s face it, considering its long standing reputation, the iconic golden arches logo and a 62-year history of serving billions of people around the globe, McDonald’s has to be THE role model for all fast food past and present.

Michael Jordan is the McDonald’s of basketball, the player that perfected a style so original, some of the greatest players — LeBron James, Kobe Bryant — have molded their games after him, from the way they wear their uniforms to how they play the game.

Additionally, like McDonald’s golden arches, the Air Jordan “Jumpman” logo, is a simple, yet highly recognizable logo around the world that has served billions of sneaker and fashion fanatics. McDonald’s may even be taking a page out of the Jumpman book now that it’s started bottling its Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish, and McChicken MacPoulet sauces.

Although some may say that the pinnacle of McDonald’s (and Jordan’s) hype has already run its course, both brands are still highly relevant, and have single-handedly become global models for success — characteristics that will probably not fade anytime soon.

Notable accolades: 6x NBA Champion, 5x Regular Season MVP, 6x NBA Finals MVP

 

Shake Shack — LeBron James, Small Forward

LeBron James Facebook/@ShakeShack (Instagram)

Both versatile favorites, Shake Shack and LeBron James have plenty of similarities. James made his NBA debut in 2003, while Shake Shack was founded in 2004.

Shake Shack’s early hype made it comparable to In-N-Out, as the hype surrounding LBJ made him comparable to Kobe.

Despite a 3-5 record in the NBA Finals, there’s no arguing that LeBron is the best small forward to ever play the game, and his career is far from over. In terms of fast food, Shake Shack is still the new kid on the block, with plenty of time to prove its dominance. In fact, it’s only been on the West Coast for a year — and is already becoming a California favorite.

Touching back on the aspect of versatility, Shake Shack is more than just cheeseburgers and fries — as James is much more than just a small forward. Specializing in hot dogs, chicken, desserts — even serving alcohol — Shake Shake can do it all.

As for LBJ, his high basketball IQ enables him to play any position on the floor, while still maintaining his role as a leader and one of the game’s most influential players.

Ultimately, it makes sense that Shake Shack is the most versatile player in the fast food game.

Notable accolades: 3x NBA Champion, 3x Olympic Gold Medalist,  3x NBA Finals MVP, 4x Regular Season MVP

 

Chick-Fil-A — Tim Duncan, Power Forward

@SASUpdates/@OutHereFlourishing

Despite serving fantastic fried chicken, Chick-Fil-A is a bit boring, yet it is known for being fundamentally sound. The same can be said for long time San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan.

Known as “The Big Fundamental,” Tim Duncan was one of the most conservative players on and off the court. Duncan was never in headlines with bad publicity, or spoke out of line when it came to interviews — but perhaps could have done more to improve his brand as a player.

Chick-Fil-A finds itself in the same quandary. Operating under a very conservative business model, if Chick-Fil-A functioned on the 7-day week, perhaps it could shed that conservative reputation and stand out in the crowd a bit more.

Notable accolades: 5x NBA Champion,  3x NBA Finals MVP, 2x Regular Season MVP

 

Starbucks Coffee — Shaquille O’Neal, Center

Shaquille O’ Neal Facebook/@Phambot

If there is one fast food brand that dominates the competition, it’s Starbucks. No matter where you are, there’s a Starbucks location nearby.

The “Starbucks” name alone has become synonymous with coffee around the world — and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

If there’s one NBA player known for dominating the competition — it’s Shaquille O’Neal. Also known as The Big Aristotle, Shaq Diesel, and The Big Shaqtus, the 7′ 1″ center had enough nicknames for every drink on the Starbuck’s menu.

Shaq was known for his big, bold, in-your-face personality, along with his tendency to change teams — like Starbuck’s locations, Shaq played everywhere.

Notable accolades: 4x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 12x All-Star,  1x Regular Season MVP

 

THE BENCH

 

In-N-Out — Kobe Bryant, Shooting Guard (6th man)

@Mr.Nasreddine/@EricOzco

In-N-Out has built a gold-plated legacy for itself on the West Coast. Still, regardless of where you live, there are people on the East or West Coast who consider In-N-Out to be the greatest fast food cheeseburger of all time.

Kobe could be the greatest basketball player of all time.

Thanks to his undying loyalty to the West Coast, five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons wearing Los Angeles Laker purple and gold, and never took his career anywhere else.  Another reason the Kobe/In-N-Out analogy works is that In-N-Out has addressed it’s West Coast bias, and will never set up shop on the East Coast, in order to have flawless quality control.

Thank you In-N-Out and Kobe for the California love.

Notable accolades: 5x NBA Champion, 2x Olympic Gold Medalist, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 1x Regular Season MVP

 

 

Chipotle — Kevin Durant, Small Forward

@Trey5/@Chipotle

When Chipotle first hit the market, everyone was excited to try this seemingly healthy and convenient form of Americanized Mexican food. However, Chipotle quickly became the enemy after their noro-virus outbreak, which it may never recover from.

Kevin Durant became the bad guy once he moved from the Oklahoma City Thunder, choosing the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, causing folks to turn on him in similar fashion to how consumers turned on Chipotle.

 

Subway —  Jason Kidd, Point Guard

Jason Kidd Facebook/FOODBEAST

Subway was the poster child of healthy eating. However, as the businesses aged, its reputation became tarnished with bad publicity.

Subway’s decline started when news that their bread contained a chemical that was found in yoga mats. Things only got worse for the sandwich giant when its long time spokesperson, Jared Fogle, was convicted of sexually assaulting minors.  

Subway might never be the same.

Jason Kidd was one of the greatest point guards of all time, whose reputation was later tarnished with allegations of spousal abuse. A few years ago, Kidd was fined for purposely spilling ice on the floor, during a game no less, in an attempt to gain extra time. 

 

Sonic — Dennis Rodman, Power Forward

Dennis Rodman Facebook/@sonicdriveinoftonganoxie

Both Sonic and Dennis Rodman operate on a different level. 

Known as, “The Worm,” Rodman’s on-court antics were some of the most vibrant in the game. Usually found sporting multi-colored hair, painted fingernails, piercings, and tattoos, all of which helped the rebound king stand out in every way. Rodman’s fiery personality was encapsulated in his aggressive and freakish talent as a basketball player.

Considering Sonic’s “Drive-In” concept, a robust variety of different multi-colored slushes and its vast array of hot dogs, burgers, and fried chicken, Sonic can easily be considered the Rodman of the fast food industry — never afraid to do things differently.

It’s also no secret Rodman was the life of the party, The Los Angeles Times reported the Huntington Beach Police Department visited Rodman’s Beach house 80 times in the summer of 2004.

 

 

Domino’s Pizza — Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Point Guard

Magic Johnson Facebook/FOODBEAST

Probably the best passer the game of basketball has ever seen, Magic Johnson perfected the “no-look” pass along with other one-of-a-kind methods of delivering the ball to his teammates, and is considered to be one of the greatest Lakers to ever sport the purple and gold.

It may not seem obvious, but considering the digital reach of Domino’s Pizza, it also might have perfected the art of dazzling and creative delivery, too. Over the past few years, Domino’s has digitalized their delivery methods, and provided customers with an ease of access to their favorite slice of pie, simply by sending an emoji.

Another game-changing innovation from Domino’s is the Pizza Tracker application. The Pizza Tracker is a platform that allows patrons to watch their order come to life, even allows customers choose a kitchen theme and name their own digital chef. Lately, it seems like Domino’s is a tech company, that just happens to make pizzas.

By increasing it’s digital platform to more than 50 percent of its business, Domino’s uprooted Pizza Hut as America’s favorite pizza company. Until Pizza Hut learns to play with the big boys, it’s stuck in the D-League.

Who do you think should make the squad?

Categories
Fast Food Restaurants Science What's New

Here’s How Sonic’s New ‘Slingers’ Are Revolutionizing Burgers

Photo courtesy of Sonic Drive-In.

Sonic Drive-In is about to change the fast food game with a brand-new burger patty that no other fast food restaurant has ever attempted to produce before.

At the 2017 Menus of Change Leadership Summit in Hyde Park, New York, the fast food chain unveiled a line of new “Sonic Slingers,” which will be tested as original or bacon burgers and utilize a novel “blended burger patty” that, as Sonic has confirmed to Foodbeast, will consist of beef, seasoning, and 25 to 30 percent mushrooms.

This blended burger patty has been recently taking the culinary world by storm for superior health and sustainability. A joint study between UC Davis and the Culinary Institute of America showed that cutting ground beef with mushrooms by up to 50% was shown to either be equally or more flavorsome than plain ground beef, meaning that you can reduce the meat in a burger without sacrificing flavor. By cutting beef with mushrooms, Sonic is also lowering the fat content, sodium content, and overall calories of their burgers, making the Slinger patties healthier and just as tasty as a regular beef patty.

More importantly, Sonic’s new patties turn them into a sustainability leader for the fast food industry. Replacing beef with mushrooms puts a lower strain on our ecosystems and reduces greenhouse emissions from beef production. Thus, through their Slingers, Sonic is directly decreasing the land and water needed to maintain our current levels of beef production while putting out a more nutritious and equally delicious burger.

Theoretically, the Sonic Slingers could also lower cost, since mushrooms fetch for a significantly lower price than ground beef does per pound. To see if that is the case, however, we’ll have to compare their price when they hit test markets, which Sonic has confirmed to Foodbeast will happen later this summer.

In the meantime, we’re growing excited to see this bold and innovative step in the fast food world, and we’re not alone. McDonald’s executive chef Dan Coudreat was also reportedly impressed by the Sonic Slingers and will be keeping an eye on how they perform. Who knows? Maybe McDonald’s will follow suit and help the fast food industry become more sustainable.

Categories
Deals Fast Food News Restaurants What's New

Sonic’s 50-Cent Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are Back!

Brace yourselves, America. The epic binge of grilled cheese sandwiches is here once again.

Sonic Drive-In just announced a one-day deal to grab up to five of these classic sandwiches on December 21st for just 50 cents each. There’s no frills about these golden vessels of gooey and a perfect meal to help you stay warm during this especially cold winter.

This isn’t the first time that Sonic has done this deal, however, having launched a similar promotion at the end of last year. Apparently, it was such a success that the fast food chain has brought it back for this year, giving us another round of grilled cheese binges that we can all enjoy.

Sonic also has deals almost constantly going on at their chains, but this is a low-cost, once-in-a-blue-moon deal that you’ll want to get your hands on.