To customers at chains like A&W and TGI Friday's, the plant-based Beyond Burger goes toe-to-toe with the real thing. Now, it's time for Denny's diners to give it a try. Served with lettuce, American cheese, pickles, tomato and onion on a multi-grain bun, Denny's Beyond Burger option presented customers in Southern California a timeless classic with a 21st-century twist.
A trial run of serving the plant-based burger in the Los Angeles area was “overwhelmingly successful,” according to the company. And as of this month, the diner chain will offer the alternative meat option at more than 1,700 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Below we outline three major takeaways from Denny’s bet on Beyond Meat.
Denny’s says it added the Beyond Burger to meet changing consumer preferences — namely, their continued interest in trying out a flexitarian diet. Denny’s Beyond Burger contains no GMOs, gluten or cholesterol and less fat than regular beef burgers. It also has more protein than ground beef. Customers only have to nix the American cheese and burger sauce for a vegan meal (in concept, unless the burgers are cooked on the same grill with meat products). Hence Denny’s is showing that it’s open to preferences that millennials and Gen Z consumers have been expressing to food companies.
Younger consumers are concerned about more than just nutrition. The environment weighs heavily on the minds of many Millennials, and Beyond Meat believes it’s up to the challenge. According to the company, Beyond Meat uses 99 percent less water, 93 percent less land, 46 percent less energy, and releases 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, the Beyond Burger is free of any completely animal protein.
While Denny’s menu has long relied on tried-and-true diner staples, adding Beyond Burger to the menu gave the casual dining chain the opportunity to bring in new customers in an era challenging to many food and restaurant companies due to evolving consumer tastes.
The partnership with Beyond came on the heels of McDonald’s announcing it would be expanding its vegan burger availability to Canada, which are also made with Beyond. Dunkin’, KFC (Beyond Fried Chicken), Del Taco and more fast food chains have also started partnering with Beyond Meat while competitors Burger King and Little Caesars are working with Impossible Foods to add plant-based options to their menus.
Denny’s launch of Beyond Burger came at a time when family-style, middle-of-the-road restaurants like IHOP and Applebee’s are struggling to beat out competition from fast-casual chains. Hence the new plant-based burger option is a way for Denny’s to lure diners at a time when they have been increasingly turning to popular fast chains like Panera or Chipotle.
Denny’s decision to test Beyond Burger in L.A. first was an interesting strategic choice. True, the second largest city in the U.S. has a reputation for “healthy” living and cuisine. But L.A. traces its roots to the Midwest, where the cattle industry has long reigned supreme -- and the city’s passion for burgers is one of its intangible landmarks. Let me clarify -- real, meat burgers. CNN Travel, for example, ranked L.A. as the top 10 meat lover’s state in the U.S.
Was Denny’s running on a gamble that if a plant-based burger could survive and thrive in L.A., it could be successful almost anywhere? Denny’s sure thinks so, having enough confidence in future sales of the Beyond Burger that it would add it to the menu at all of its locations across North America.
Since the company first landed its products at Whole Foods in 2012, the company has emerged as a strong, reputable brand. Just look at the company’s sales: last year, Beyond brought in $42 million, which is more than three times the revenue the company made in 2018. Beyond is also one of the biggest names in the plant-based food industry, selling its products in about 30,000 grocery stores in multiple countries.
In 2018 revenues for Denny’s reached $2.9 billion, and for the most part its stock has been on an upward trajectory over the past decade. But the restaurant industry is facing challenges at all sides, from the proliferation of online delivery apps, convenience stores and to even ghost kitchens. Trying out plant-based options is one way in which companies like Denny’s can be proactive and stay viable in the long term.
Image credit: Denny’s and Beyond Meat