Fast food restaurants "banish the bun"

January 21, 2004 in Food Companies, Manufacturing and Trends

Fast food restaurants "banish the bun"

It seems that the unfortunate demise of its founder, Dr. Robert Atkins last year when he slipped on some ice and hit his head, has not slowed down the Atkins diet influence.

Burger King's rollout of the breadless Whopper this week is a nod to the low-carb craze that continues to gather force across North America. Smaller chains Hardee's and Carl's Jr. dumped the bread from some hamburgers last month, going lettuce-wrapped instead, and TGI Friday's restaurant has started serving a bunless cheeseburger, too.

Even Subway has caved in to the low-carb craze by offering new "Atkins-Friendly" or low-carbohydrate wraps. Subway Restaurants offer two Atkins-endorsed choices: the Turkey and Bacon Melt Wrap, with Monterey cheddar cheese, and the Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap, with Swiss cheese. Available both in the US and Canada, they have 11 grams of carbohydrate or less each. The wrap itself, which is made with wheat gluten, cornstarch, oat, sesame flour and soy protein, has only 5 grams of carbohydrate. In addition, every sub on the menu can be made into a wrap.

But hold the high-carb bun odes please. Burger and sandwich-lovers will have the last say, and experts say the bun shouldn't be written off from restaurants' regular fare, much less from its place in modern American food lore. "This won't be a big segment of the (burger) market," predicted Jerry McVety, a foodservice industry consultant based in Farmington Hills, Michigan. "I don't see it lasting very long."

McDonald's and Wendy's, the other two largest burger purveyors, aren't biting on the bunless for now. Spokesmen for both those chains, which have added entree salads and taken other steps to assuage customers' diet concern, said Wednesday they have no plans to include bunless burgers on their menus.

The price of the new product risks being unappealing to customers, too: It's the same with or without bun, per Burger King's recommendation to its 8,000 restaurants. The battle of the bun has begun.

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