Get All Access for $5/mo

More Fast-Food Franchises Go Lean High-calorie fare is so 2010. Fast food takes a lean turn this year. (You want fries with that oatmeal?)

By Adam Tschorn

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Given the fantastical foodstuffs that made it onto menus in 2010 (KFC's Double Down two-chicken-breast-and-no-bun sandwich, anyone?), it might seem reasonable to assume a new year would bring more of the same. Although most fast-food folks were reluctant (for competitive reasons, natch) to share what delicacies they will be launching for lunch and debuting for dinner in 2011, a check with a couple of the major players reveals that overtly outlandish is so last year. Thanks to provisions in federal healthcare reform set to go into effect early this year, helping the bottom line will be all about watching the waistline.

Feeling the Oats
Because of the new calorie and nutrition labeling requirements included in the legislation, quick-serve restaurants "are probably looking at adding healthier options," says Eric Giandelone, director of food service research for trend forecaster Mintel. Cue the oatmeal, which can now be found from Starbucks (which added it to the menu in 2008) to Tim Hortons across our northern border (which announced in late 2010 that it would start offering Canadians freshly prepared home-style oatmeal). And in the not-too-distant future, it'll be beneath a Golden Arches near you. "It's hard to imagine a breakfast item people would feel better about eating," says Wade Thoma, vice president of menu management of McDonald's USA. And a serving is just 290 calories.

Talking Turkey
Carl's Jr. relishes its reputation for gut-busting burgers. It declined to reveal any specific items in the 2011 product pipeline, but it was testing some comparatively healthful items in some of its Southern California doors: three versions of a turkey burger (a plain burger, a teriyaki turkey burger and a guacamole turkey burger), each of which weighed in at less than 500 calories.

Spice is Nice
Another approach will be to swap fat for flavor. "I see spicy as a big issue [in 2011]," says Jeff Davis, president of food service market research firm Sandelman & Associates.

You don't need to convince John Schaufelberger, Burger King's senior vice president, global product marketing and innovation. "Our consumers love two things in big quantities," he says, "spicy and cheesy." The result? BK's Jalapeño & Cheddar Stuffed Steakhouse burger, due out in early 2011, which puts jalapeño peppers and cheddar cheese inside a beef patty topped with tomatoes, lettuce and creamy, zingy poblano sauce. With 600 calories and 34 grams of fat, it's actually a slightly more healthful alternative to the King's signature Whopper and its 670 calories and 40 grams of fat.

But the era of egregious eats isn't quite finished. Over-the-top offerings like the cheese melt Denny's rolled out last year (four fried mozzarella sticks and melted American cheese grilled between two slices of sourdough bread) will continue coming to market--and disappearing. Based on the new healthcare law, there's an exception for items on menus for 60 days a year or less, says Mintel's Giandelone, and limited-time offers are exempt from new labeling requirements.

Which means you should expect things like the Double Down to cycle through the menu--in double time.

Adam Tschorn covers men's style for the Los Angeles Times.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick


How to Close the Trust Gap Between You and Your Team — 5 Strategies for Leaders

Trust is tanking in your workplace. Here's how to fix it and become the boss your team needs to succeed.


6 Cost-Effective Ways to Acquire Brand Ambassadors

Boost your brand's visibility and credibility with budget-friendly strategies for acquiring brand ambassadors.

Health & Wellness

Get a Year of Unlimited Yoga Class Downloads for Only $23 Through June 17

Regular exercise has been proven to increase energy and focus, both of which are valuable to entrepreneurs and well-known benefits of yoga.

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.

Side Hustle

'The Work Just Fills My Soul': She Turned Her Creative Side Hustle Into a 6-Figure 'Dream' Business

Kayla Valerio, owner of vivid hair salon Haus of Color, transformed her passion into a lucrative venture.

Business Culture

Why Remote Work Policies Are Good For the Environment

Remote work policies are crucial for ESG guidelines. Embracing remote work can positively impact your business and employees.