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Faux Meat Falters at the Drive-Thru

For some of the fast-food restaurants that peddled plant-based versions of their menus to appeal to meat-conscious consumers, the novelty is already wearing off. It could spell trouble for the makers of the products, who’ve hyped the partnerships as a major step to mainstream popularity.

The biggest restaurant chains are backing off—or at least slowing down—faux-meat plans after the Covid‑19 pandemic and lockdowns upended dining and eating. Instead of trying new things, Americans have been eating at home or seeking familiar, comforting foods when they do venture out. Orders of plant-based burgers and sandwiches at fast-food restaurants were unchanged for the year ended in June, while beef burger orders climbed 12% over the same period, according to market researcher NPD Group Inc. “I don’t think that plant-based meat is at the top of the list for many restaurant operators right now,” says BTIG LLC analyst Peter Saleh. “It’s more about, let’s just sell the core menu items, and let’s do it the best we can.”

Inspire Brands Inc.’s Dunkin’ has taken Beyond Meat Inc.’s breakfast sausage out of thousands of locations. Yum! Brands Inc.’s KFC, which ran trials of Beyond Meat’s chicken nuggets, has yet to turn them into a regular menu item, and Burger King has notched down the marketing of its Impossible Whopper. At Little Caesars a trial of Impossible Foods Inc. sausage didn’t work out; it just wasn’t a popular enough topping to support an alternative. The pizza chain is giving faux pepperoni a shot, though only in large metro areas, including Miami, New York, and San Francisco.


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