- Arby’s released an official statement recently indicating that the chain will never serve plant-based meat products, reports Food & Wine.
- The chain made the statement to dispel rumors that Arby’s was one of the fast food chains that had reached out to Impossible Foods about investment opportunities.
- “Contrary to reports this week, Arby’s is not one of the restaurant companies interested in working with Impossible Foods,” Arby’s stated. “The chances we will bring plant-based menu items to our restaurants, now or in the future, are absolutely impossible.”
With a slogan that says, “We Have the Meats,” it’s unsurprising that Arby’s is taking a clear position against plant-based protein. Diners seeking out alternative options to get their meat fix are probably not the chain’s target demographic, which has added everything from venison to duck on its menus.
Arby’s might be swimming upstream here. A growing list of QSRs are adding plant-based options to their menus, and one-third of consumers report interest in trying one of the new meat substitutes storming the market. Carl’s Jr. added Beyond Meat’s plant-based burger to its menu in January, while Canada’s A&W sold out of plant-based patties within a few weeks of releasing its new Impossible offering. Beyond Meat also sells its plant-based products at a number of Mexican QSR chains, including Qdboa and Del Taco. Burger King also debuted an Impossible Whopper this year, and hopes to sell it at all of its store locations by the end of 2019.
In the fast casual realm, Red Robin recently tapped Impossible Foods to release an Impossible Cheeseburger in a bid to boost sluggish sales.Taco Bell is adding a vegetarian menu at some of its store locations and Chik-fil-A is dabbling with a plant-based poultry substitute.
Opting against plant-based menu additions might be a big hit with staunch carnivores who find the idea of a pea protein burger that "bleeds" beet juice bleeds absurd. But the decision may be short-sighted. Technomic data shows that plant-based food items have grown 54% on restaurant menus over the last five years, and these additions have proven to drive serious gains. Burger King's Impossible Whopper, for example, boosted foot traffic 18.5% higher than the chain's national traffic for the St. Louis market where it's being tested. Beyond St. Louis, traffic across the restaurant's U.S. locations fell by 1.75%.
Still, Arby's isn't alone in its hesitations over plant-based meat. McDonald's is also noticeably absent from the plant-based, QSR fray. During the company’s recent shareholders meeting, executives indicated that the company is keeping an eye on the plant-based space despite pressure from several sources to provide plant-based meat options. The fast food giant sells a vegetarian patty manufactured by Nestle in its German store locations, but McDonald’s may be waiting to see whether consumers have a clear preference for Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat’s products on the U.S front.
And just because Arby’s says it won’t serve plant-based meat products right now doesn’t mean it won’t change its mind. Arby’s offers sandwiches prepared with sliced meats and cold cuts — not burgers. So far, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have been laser focused on replacing America’s beloved beef burgers. If these startups come out with different iterations of their plant-based products that would better integrate with Arby’s menu offerings, it could change their tune.