- Carl's Jr. restaurants will start serving its signature Famous Star burger with a quarter-pound Beyond Meat patty on a seeded bun for $6.29 at more than 1,000 locations for a limited time, CKE Restaurants announced Wednesday. Customers can also choose to sub in the plant-based Beyond patty on any Carl's Jr. sandwich for an extra $2, according to the release.
- At $6.29, the new plant-based Famous Star is nearly $4 more than the original version, which costs $2.69, according to Nation's Restaurant News.The Beyond Famous Star, which still packs 20 grams of protein and will be char-broiled like all Carl's Jr. burgers, will be available through Jan. 31.
- Now the largest Beyond Meat restaurant partner, Carl's Jr. also offers a fried zucchini patty as an alternative to beef.
Since 2009, Beyond Meat has been slowly permeating foodservice and retailers with its plant-based patty, which differs from old-school veggie patties as a soy- and gluten-free choice with 20 grams of protein from non-GMO sources. The Beyond Famous burger with cheese ticks nearly every box for consumers looking to limit meat consumption, but it doesn't necessarily pass the "healthy" test at 770 calories with 44 grams of fat and 1,600 grams of sodium, per Carl's Jr.'s nutritional calculator.
Beyond Meat has found willing partners in more than 10,000 grocery stores, university dining systems and smaller restaurant chains, including Epic Burger, BurgerFi and most recently TGI Friday's. Mexican quick-service chain Del Taco also offers Beyond Beef Crumbles, but only at select locations.
Interest in plant-based alternatives has grown as meat-eaters try to improve their diets and make more environmentally sustainable purchases. The question is whether or not Carl's Jr. diners will be willing to pay an extra $3.60 for its new meat-free burger. Customers might be unlikely to choose the pricey plant-based patty unless they follow strict no-meat diets.
But the success of White Castle's Impossible slider — which was recently expanded chainwide after a successful test run — shows that that trendy meat alternatives can drive demand. On the other hand, the chain's slider only costs $1.99, though it's about half the size of the Beyond Famous Star, according to The Spoon. Eater’s critic called it one of America’s best fast-food burgers for emulating the same flavors as the chain's straightforward beef staple.
The Impossible and Beyond folks have definitely found a lucrative sweet spot mimicking comfort food the way consumers desire but without the environmental impact. But with prices creeping up everywhere thanks to rising labor costs and fluctuating meat prices, fast food chains might struggle to convince enough customers to buy in to a Beyond burger.
For Carl's Jr., however, tackling the flexitarian trend might be just the ticket it needs to overcome customer deficits, which persist despite its switch from racy ads to more food-focused advertising. Only 11% of consumers aware of the brand said they would consider the chain when choosing a fast food restaurant, compared to 28% industrywide, according to YouGov. The Beyond partnership could help change brand perception and attract new diners hungry for a trendy meat alternative.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, the amount of sodium in the Carl’s Jr. Beyond Famous Star burger was misstated. The Beyond Famous Star with cheese contains 1,600 milligrams of sodium.