Oatmeal? The hot item on fast food menus

August 24, 2011

City Room and AP Wires

(Flickr/Sam Klein)

Oatmeal is quick becoming a hot commodity on fast food menus these days. 

The age-old hot breakfast cereal is all-the-rage at a number of the nation's top fast food venues.  The latest to join the fray is Burger King, which added Chicago-based Quaker Oats products to its breakfast menu this week. 

But Burger King is hardly alone. 

McDonald's has introduced oatmeal to its menu. Starbucks has seen its oatmeal turn into a hit with customers. Chik-fil-A added oatmeal to its menu in July. And sit-down chain Denny's recently added a deluxe oatmeal option.

"The trend has been coming for a while," says Darren Tristano, an executive with Technomic, a food consulting firm based in Chicago. "It's a result of the economy, and restaurants growing the breakfast daypart."

And in the case of oatmeal, the lumpy substance offers a few additional benefits beyond value.  It's familiar - and it's convenient to prepare and to eat.

But of equal importance to fast food outposts like Burger King and Chik-fil-A, a bowl of oatmeal is consistent.  You know what you're getting - and you can doctor it up with better toppings, like Starbucks offers.

Tristano says there's also a reason why Burger King has specifically linked with Quaker Oats, instead of trying to introduce its own product.

"When you attach brands like Quaker, you get a better perception," Tristano says. 

According to Tristano, consumers will identify with the brand and therefore be more willing to pay for the quality of that brand.

At least, that's what Burger King is hoping.

The struggling burger chain is facing intense competition from McDonald's and other peers that have expanded their menus to include healthier options.  Burger King hopes to shift away from a solely burgers-and-fries approach and appeal to a wider array of customers to help boost its sagging sales.