Fast food and America are going through a rocky patch. After years of devotion to cheap, convenient dining, the country has decided those readily available calories are a primary cause of its obesity crisis. Cities are weighing soda taxes. Sales are flailing. And fast-food chains are being forced to adapt.
The latest evidence of this came on Tuesday, when USA Today reported that Burger King had in February quietly dropped soft drinks from its kids’ menus. For practical purposes, that means that soda will no longer appear as a default beverage option for kids’ meals—instead, customers will be able to choose from fat-free milk, low-fat chocolate milk, and apple juice. McDonald’s and Wendy’s have made similar changes to their menu offerings in recent months. Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America, told USA Today in a statement that the shift was “part of our ongoing effort to offer our guests options that match lifestyle needs.”
What might be most interesting about Burger King’s menu change is that the chain chose to do it so quietly. When McDonald’s decided last week to phase out antibiotics from its chicken—a similar appeal to increasingly health-conscious consumers—it played up the decision in a press release and won significant praise from healthy food and sustainability activists. For McDonald’s, which is grappling with an image problem, that positive response was presumably invaluable. Burger King, as a fast-food stalwart, has similar image issues. When it acts to improve it, you’d think it would also want to claim some credit.