Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BK's Homestyle Melts

Yesterday Burger King introduced their new Homestyle Melts for a limited time. BK is billing them as "delicious melted sandwiches just like mom used to make."

There's a Homestyle Melt designed for breakfast and another for lunch and dinner.

For breakfast, the Honey Butter Homestyle Melt, has sausage, egg, honey butter sauce and melted American cheese between two pieces of "buttery flavored" sourdough bread. It costs $2.39.

For lunch and dinner the Bacon Double Homestyle Melt (shown above) has four half-slices of bacon, three slices of melted Swiss cheese and two hamburger patties with a garlic cheese sauce on "buttery flavored" sourdough bread. It costs $2.79 and has 810 calories and 58 grams of fat (more nutritional info below).

"Homestyle Melts are comfort foods Burger King style, with great, robust flavors and textures people associate with home," said John Schafulberger, senior vice president of global product marketing for Burger King Corp.

BK describes the television advertising campaign for these new sandwiches: "three vignettes that feature four moms who are angry at the King for encroaching on their turf by offering melted sandwiches served on soft buttery bread. The moms try to defend their territory, but the King and his new Homestyle Melts are ultimately victorious."

Burger King's Bacon Double Homestyle Melt with Buttery Spread has 810 calories, 520 calories from fat, 58 fat grams, 20 grams saturated fat, 2 grams trans fat, 135 mg cholesterol, 1370 mg sodium, 34 grams carbs, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams sugars, 39 grams protein.


Jon Stewart on Taco Bell in Mexico

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart talked about Taco Bell opening their first store in Mexico and wonders if Taco Bell will use their slogan, "Run for the border," in Mexico, too. He also shows us what a television ad in Mexico for Taco Bell might look like. Watch it below (or here)...

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New product testing by McD's and Wendy's

Wendy's only sold chocolate Frosty's until July of last year (2006) when they introduced a vanilla shake. Now Wendy's is testing strawberry shakes.

Since the introduction of the vanilla Frosty, Frosty sales are up 60 percent and now top 300 million a year.

McDonald's has begun testing two new McSkillet Burritos in a number of markets. One of the new McSkillet Burritos features steak and the other features sausage, both combined with potatoes, eggs, cheese and peppers.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Fast food speed & accuracy survey

QSR Magazine has published 2007 edition of their annual "Best in Drive-Thru" report. (I wrote about the 2006 report last year.)

There's a lot to read in the various sections of the report, so here's the meat. Three ranking lists (starting with the best performing fast food restaurant and going down) that I'll call "Accuracy," "Speed," and "Friendliness."

Speed (found here) is based on the how long it takes to get your fast food drive-thru order. The same 4 chains are in the top 4, but in a different order. Wendy's moved to #1.
Accuracy (found here) is based on how often the chain gets your order right. Chick-fil-a holds onto the #1 spot again this year and Burger King enters the top 5.
The friendliest drive-thrus, based on the use of "please" and "thank you" and smiles, eye contact and an overall pleasant demeanor, can be found here.

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Taco Bell's 2007 World Series promotion

Last year, Taco Bell's World Series promotion was to offer a free taco to everyone in America if there was left-field home run during Game 3 of the World Series. After six innings with no home runs, Taco Bell extended the promotion to include any home runs.

There were no home runs in the game, but the sportscasters talked about Taco Bell and their promotion during the entire game giving Taco Bell some great exposure (although I'm sure it cost them plenty).

This year Taco Bell's World Series promotion involves stolen bases. Any stolen base during the entire World Series will earn everyone in America a free taco.

Taco Bell is using the slogan "90ft. to free tacos for America" for this promotion. 90ft. being the distance between bases on the baseball diamond.

Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Lou Brock, who stole a record 14 bases in World Series play (including an individual series record seven during the 1967 MLB World Series), will serve as Taco Bell's spokesperson. "Steal A Base, Steal A Taco" will also benefit a worthy cause -- a monetary donation of $20,000 will be made to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

If there is a stolen base, you can obtain your free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 (if base is stolen in Games 1 or 2 on October 24 or October 25, 2007) OR November 6, 2007 (if base is stolen in Games 3-7, October 27, 28, 29, 31, November 1, 2007). (More details at www.StealaBaseStealaTaco.com)

The good news for taco lover's: There has been at least one stolen base in every World Series matchup since 1990.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Fast food chains at 1000 mark

Sure, Subway has 20,755 locations and McDonald's has 13,744, but for some up-and-comers, the 1,000 restaurants mark is a huge one.

USA Today
has an article on the front page of their "Money" section this morning about some chains that have "hit the big 1-0-0-0." Some excerpts:

Papa Murphy's, the ready-to-bake pizza maker, has reached 1,000 units after 23 years in business.

WingStreet, on the other hand, has reached 1,000 units in just 4 years. Of course, they share locations with Pizza Hut and are owned by Yum Brands.

Panda Express started in 1083 and now has 1,000 restaurants.

Sbarro's, the Italian fast food chain, opened its 1,000th location in Istanbul, Turkey and expects much of its future growth to occur outside the US.

Panera Bread took 25 years to reach 1,000 restaurants this year.

source: USA Today


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Parents scold McDonald's for 'selling sex'

QSR Magazine is reporting that a parents organization is suing McDonald's for it's "My Scene Barbie" promotion:
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is demanding that McDonald's immediately end what it calls its "highly sexualized" My Scene Barbie Happy Meal promotion featuring "ludicrously proportioned" Barbies with micro miniskirts, halter tops, and rollerblades.

"It's bad enough that McDonald's continues to use toys to sell kids on junk food," says CCFC's director, Dr. Susan Linn, a psychologist at Judge Baker Children's Center. "But to lure young girls to its restaurants by promoting the worst sexualized stereotypes is reprehensible."
more at QSR Magazine...

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hardee's Country Breakfast Buritto

We were 'impressed' by the calories in Hardee's Steak 'N' Egg Burrito (560 calories) and Loaded Breakfast Burrito (780 calories)... now we're just overwhelmed!

Hardee's new Country Breakfast Burrito has a heart-stopping 902 calories and 60 grams of fat!

Hardee's is proud of this gut-busting breakfast and doesn't make any excuses for it's colossal calorie count. CNN quotes Hardee's marketing chief Brad Haley, ""We don't try to hide what these are," he said. "When consumers go to other fast-food places they feel like they've got to buy two of their breakfast sandwiches or burritos to fill up. This is really designed to fill you up."

Hardee's Country Breakfast Burrito has 902 calories, 60 grams of fat, 540 calories from fat, 23 grams saturated fat, 51 grams carbs, 500 mg cholesterol, 1970 mg sodium, 42 grams protein and is priced at $2.69.

from Epicurious: "That's more than half the daily recommended caloric intake for many Americans, and more fat than most of us need to eat every three days."
Hat tips: Slashfood, Epicurious, & CNN

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Today is World Food Day 2007

Spread the word & help feed the world.

via US Food Policy (thanks!)


Monday, October 15, 2007

Sonic's XL Bacon Cheddar Cheesesteak

My wife and I stopped at a Sonic Drive-In over the weekend for a couple Cherry Limeades (yum!) and we noticed this sign on the drive-up menu board:

I was transfixed by the enormity of the sandwich (and its name), but my wife noticed the calorie saving hint in smaller print at the bottom: "Even better with a Diet Coke and fresh lime."

If you're going to eat something like that, why bother with a DIET coke!?!? Just go for it and get the regular Coke (or at least a Cherry Limeade).

I was guessing at least 1000 calories for this bad-boy, but it totals a mere 710 calories (complete nutritional data below).

The Extra-Long Bacon Cheddar Cheesesteak is a "limited-time" menu item at Sonic. Their description:
What, you think you have to go to Philadelphia to get a quality cheesesteak? Just swing by any SONIC® (including the Philadelphia locations) and order a big, hearty, meat-lovers sandwich—juicy steak smothered with smoky cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, grilled onions and mayonnaise. Only SONIC® makes it extra long. Because we know that the regular amount of flavor just won't cut the mustard ... I mean mayo. There's no mustard. Forget I mentioned that.
As we were driving away, sipping our excellent Cherry Limeades, we made another observation: no other fast food restaurant comes anywhere close to offering the variety of drinks that Sonic does. We love it.

Sonic Drive-In's Extra-Long Bacon Cheddar Cheesesteak has 710 calories, 360 calories from fat, 40 grams fat, 13 grams saturated fat, 1 gram trans fat, 100 mg cholesterol, 1030 mg sodium, 52 grams carbs, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams sugars, and 35 grams protein.


Friday, October 12, 2007

BK not meeting kids advertising pledge yet

I received an e-mail from Burger King today regarding my article below. My sincerest apologies to Burger King for making a critical error in reading their "Corporate Pledge" regarding advertising to children and healthy Kid's Meals for children.

I misread the date that the pledge is to begin. It is not for over a year: December 31, 2008.

The thrust of my article was that their pledge to consumers would begin fairly soon. This is not the case. it is 14 months away.

I am still concerned that Burger King is marketing 840 calorie Kid's Meals directly to children via their web site, but they certainly have not broken their promise or violated their pledge. At least Burger King has made a pledge to improve this in the future. That's more than most other fast food restaurant chains have done.

Here is the complete text of the e-mail I received from Burger King:

Dear Fast Food News:
As a spokesperson for the Burger King Corporation, I wanted to provide clarification regarding your post on our timeline for enacting our advertising pledge. If you refer to our Pledge, you’ll see that we’ve actually committed to updating our Kids Meals and limiting our advertising by December 31, 2008 (not January 1, 2008, as you state).

We are fully committed to taking positive steps to provide children with new and innovative food and beverage products that will provide more nutritionally balanced menu options for kids. But developing and distributing new products to thousands of Burger King restaurants across the country is a complex, multi-step process that can take months. That said, we are moving as quickly as possible and hope that we are able to meet that deadline even sooner, but want to make sure that we do it right. The January 1, 2008 date that you refer to is our commitment date for limiting advertising in schools, as well as limiting product placements in movies and other such media. While this commitment is part of our overall Pledge, it’s logistically easier for us to implement, and therefore we were able to set a more aggressive timeline for it.

I hope this helps clarify our timeline and reassures you that we are taking our pledge seriously. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Keva Silversmith
Corporate Communications
Burger King Corporation

Burger King announced their highly detailed pledge on marketing to children on September 7, 2007. The pledge is set to take effect in 79 days 444 days, on January 1, 2008 December 31, 2008.

They aren't there yet.

They've violated at least three of the five nutritional standards they set up for themselves in a new ad campaign.

On their new "Viva Pinata" web site, Burger King makes it clear that the site is aimed at kids and that it is advertising:

One of the features of the site allows kids to build their own kid's meal with standard items on the BK Kid's meal menu. This menu includes more healthy items like applesauce, milk and apple juice, but it also includes a double cheeseburger, Coca-Cola and fries.

Taken directly from Burger King's pledge: "the Kids Meal (consisting of an entrée, side dish and beverage) advertised in our National Advertising will provide, in total:
  • No more than 560 calories per meal;
  • Less than 30 percent of calories from fat;
  • No more than 10 percent of calories from added sugars."
"...all food pages of our company- owned websites that are primarily directed to children under 12 years old will be for Kids Meals that meet the Burger King Corporation Nutrition Criteria."

So let's take a look at one of the Kid's Meal options advertised on the Viva Pinata site (pictured below, left):
Double cheeseburger, small, salted fries, and a kid's Coca Cola. 840 calories, 378 calories from fat, (that's 45% of calories from fat*), 42 grams of fat, 87 grams carbohydrates, 36 grams sugars (that's 144 calories from sugars which is 17% of total calories*), 1410 mg sodium, 32 grams protein, 3 grams fiber.
840 calories is 280 calories over their pledged future limit of 560.
45% of calories from fat is 15% more than their pledged future limit of 30%.
17% of calories from sugars is 7% more than their pledged future limit of 10%

Even the 'healthy' Kid's Meal (that is the default combination on the website) doesn't meet all the guidelines of Burger King's future pledge.

The 'healthy' Kid's Meal (pictured above, right) consists of a four-piece Crown-shaped chicken tenders, Mott's strawberry-flavored applesauce, and Hershey's 1% lowfat milk It has 370 calories, 112 calories from fat (30% of calories from fat*), 47 grams carbs, 33 grams sugars (which is 35% of calories from sugars*), 610 mg sodium, 17 grams protein.

Burger King meets the total calorie limit of the guidelines with this meal and is right on the line with their percent of calories from fat, but 35% of calories from sugars exceeds their future pledge guidelines by 20%.

Sure, these meals are no worse than kid's meals offered by other fast food restaurants, but Burger King has promoted their pledge to parents about advertising food to their children.

What will they come up with in the next 79 444 days to meet the standards they've set forth for themselves?

Could the main thrust of this ad campaign be to remind kids of that double-cheeseburger they can get in their Kid's Meal even after January 1, 2008 when they won't be advertising it anymore?

We'll be watching.

Percent calories from fat: grams of fat multiplied by 9 for calories from fat, then divided by total calories for percentage (based on standard 9 calories per fat gram).
Percent calories from sugars: grams of sugars multiplied by 4 calories for calories from sugars, then divided by total calories for percentage (based on standard 4 calories per gram sugars).

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Ronald McDonald's creepy debut

I thought you might enjoy seeing this McDonald's television ad. It is the first appearance by Ronald McDonald, and he's played by long-time Today Show weatherman Willard Scott.

Don't miss the strange tray of food on his head and another attached to his waist (!) where, through the magic of television, burgers magically appear!

I'm not sure he's much less creepy today, but Ronald was certainly creepy back then!

As a modern day contrast you might also want to check out this TV ad from Japan featuring a sexy female 'Ronald' (there's a male version, too.)

So here it is, Ronald McDonald's television debut:

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Taco Bell to open in Mexico

The Consumerist and The San Diego Union Tribune are reporting that Taco Bell will be opening their first fast food restaurants in Mexico in 15 years.

Taco Bell doesn't have to worry about being lost in the throngs of Mexican restaurants in Mexico because Taco Bell doesn't serve Mexican food. And they admit it:

"What we are bringing to Mexico is not Mexican food, it's our exciting quick-service restaurant brand," said Rob Poetsch, a spokesman for Yum Brands. "We feel the timing is right, and we've done quite a bit of consumer research to validate that this goes beyond product. It's about value and convenience - that's the universal appeal."

Pop culture historian Carlos Monsivais: “Taco Bell wants to take advantage of the perception that if something comes from the U.S., it tastes better, that a country that has been Americanized is willing to Americanize food that is central to its cuisine.

“It is an absurd idea, and given that it's so absurd, it may just be successful in upper-class areas,” Monsivais added.

Also from Taco Bell:
"Taco Bell is feeding the beat by keeping bands on the road, well fed and rocking their fans across America. The 2007 class of Feed the Beat was announced today, as 50 up-and-coming bands were named to receive $500 in free Fourthmeals – the late night meal between dinner and breakfast – no strings attached. An eclectic group of bands, found after a national audition, make up this year's roster."


Wendy's social "hot, juicy burgers"

Wendy's new promotion and web site, hotjuicyburger.com, is an attempt at social burger marketing.

The site lets you upload a picture of your face which is then added to a customizable character with a red, Wendy's wig. You also give your character a slogan representing why you should receive free 'hot, juicy burgers' from Wendy's for a year. If people vote on your character/slogan and you receive points. More importantly, from Wendy's point of view, you also receive points when you refer friends to the site by supplying their e-mail addresses.

The site is pretty slick. It's easy to use and it's new and different. This promotion might work out well for Wendy's.

By the way, if you're feeling generous, you can vote for my character and slogan! Just follow the link (you get a custom link when you register) and find my character or your character and click on him/her to vote. That's my character pictured at the top of the post.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yum!'s From Hunger to Hope

Yum! Brands has teamed up with the Friends of the World Food Program for World Hunger Relief Week.

Called "World Hunger Relief Week," the program supports the United Nations World Food Programme, the frontline agency in the fight against global hunger. During October 14-20, 35,000 company and franchised restaurants located in 112 countries will be participating in some way, including KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food.

The campaign, which will run from October 14th through October 20th, will increase awareness about hunger, engage volunteers, and raise critically needed funds to help WFP serve the world's areas of greatest need.

"This unprecedented and innovative campaign brings together the public and private sector to address one of the most pressing issues of our time: the world's hunger crisis," said Friends of WFP President and CEO Karen Sendelback. "Hunger is a global concern and an issue that faces each of us no matter where we live and work. Through World Hunger Relief Week, we can all make a difference to stop world hunger."
There's more information and you can donate at the "From Hunger to Hope" web site that Yum! Brands has set up.

Sure, Yum! is using a global tragedy to promote their fast food chains, but it is an important concern that needs awareness.

UPDATE: KFC announced one way their participating today:
The KFC "Honks for Hunger Relief" Tour begins on the East Coast on Oct. 11. The KFC Colonel will be driving cross-country to raise money for World Hunger Relief Week.

Each time the Colonel encounters a motorist who signals support for hunger relief with a honk of the horn, he will add a buck to the KFC bucket. Every honk means another dollar donated by KFC. The Colonel hopes to raise tens of thousands of dollars during his road trip.

Also, the From Hunger to Hope blog pointed out in comments to this blog entry that "we're not trying to promote our food in any way with this effort." I'm glad Yum! is doing something to promote awareness about hunger, but I still fail to see how The Colonel driving cross country with signs and a car plastered with KFC logos isn't promoting their food, too.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Steak n Shake's Halloween shakes

Steak n Shake has added 3 shakes to their menu for Halloween: Caramel Apple, Dark Chocolate Double Fudge, and "Popping Candy." Yes, their putting pop rocks-type candy on top of a shake.

They have a new TV ad promoting the shakes:

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Del Taco's "Macho" value menu

Del Taco has made several menu upgrades recently. The biggest change (and biggest value) is their new "Macho Value Menu." The value menu offers 7 items for under $1.

Items under $1 include the Chicken Soft Taco (99¢), Breakfast Burrito (69¢), 1/2 lb. Bean and Cheese Burrito (99¢), Bean Cup with Cheese and Red Sauce (89¢), Cheeseburger (99¢), Nachos (99¢), Del Taco Cheeseburger and Taco (99¢).

There's more:

The Chicken Soft Taco (on the value menu for 99¢, has 50% more meat now. It is marinated grilled chicken with Del Taco’s secret sauce, lettuce, cheddar cheese and a soft flour tortilla.

Del Taco is also introducing a new Mexican Caesar salad as an entrée for $3.19 or side dish at $1.59. The new salad features crisp lettuce, cotijo cheese, diced tomatoes, roasted pepitas, cilantro pepita dressing and topped with seasoned tortilla strips.

“Del Taco fans have come to expect great things from us and we’re always looking for ways to surprise them– like putting more great-tasting chicken in our most popular soft taco on the menu,” said Sharon Fogg, Del Taco senior vice president of marketing. “Our customers also are looking for us to continue to offer great value – and that’s why we have a half dozen great items for under $1 on our new Macho Value Menu.”


Fast food and keeping 'green'

The Green Piece Blog is "a reminder of the piece we often forget when traveling, eating, voting, and building; the green piece."

Yesterday, Green Piece wrote a list of 3 things you can do to make it easier on the Earth when your fast food cravings set in. Here it is:
  1. Park and walk: While you're sitting in your car with the engine running and the A/C blasting, you are getting 0 Miles/Gallon. You are just burning fuel and polluting the air. Park your car, walk inside the restaurant, and reduce your carbon footprint.
  2. Reject Excess Packaging: Fast food restaurants are famous for piling on the unnecessary packaging. There's the bag, the excess napkins, the extra ketchup packets, the lid, the straws, etc. All that stuff ends up in the landfill eventually. Order your food "for here" even if it is "to go." You'll get just what you need and nothing you don't. If you're getting a lot of food, just toss it in your cloth grocery bag. Avoid anything made of Styrofoam or plastic too.
  3. Bring Your Own Utensils: If you're getting a salad, avoid taking the plastic utensils you're offered. You're just taking the salad with you back to work or home. Utilize re-usable utensils.
I've thought about the first one before. All those cars spewing all that pollution in all those drive-thru lanes all around the world...that's a lot of CO, CO2 and other nasty stuff that could be avoided by simply parking and turning off the car (or even just turning the car off while you're waiting in line.)

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Huge photoshopped burger

The fine folks at A Hamburger Today received a 'photo' from a retouching artist in Cincinnati. His employer has a well-known burger chain for a client. If nothing else, it is some great eye-candy, er, eye-beef, for your computer screen. But it also says something about the new, bigger lenses the ad agencies have had to purchase to photograph the bigger and bigger burgers some of the chains are coming up with!

Here's what the creator of this photoshopped image told A Hamburger Today:
I am a retouching artist in Cincinnati. One of our clients is a well-known burger chain. After seeing some of the strangest combos put to bun, I assembled this. The original is six feet tall. It is photoshopped from real sandwich combos.
—Rob in Cincy

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

McDonald's living salad billboard

McDonald's has followed up their award-winning Chicago "Sundial" billboard with their new "Fresh Salads" billboard, also in the Chicago area.

from ChicagoBusiness.com:

McDonald’s Corp.’s latest effort to promote its health-conscious menu items takes advantage of the saying that the medium is the message.

Green lettuce has been planted to form the words “fresh salads” on a billboard in Wrigleyville near the intersection of Addison and Clark streets to promote its four premium salads.

[McDonald's ad agency's] creative team worked closely with a horticulturalist to create a billboard that could start with 1½-inch spouts and grow into lush leaves. The garden appears to be safe from being plucked apart by birds because there is no place for them to perch and peck.

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Panera's Pink Ribbon bagel

Panera Bread is helping in the fight against breast cancer by offering a specially created ribbon-shaped bagel in more than 1,100 Panera Bread bakery-cafes during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

During the month of October Panera Bread and its franchisees will donate a portion of the proceeds from each Pink Ribbon Bagel sold at participating bakery-cafes to a variety of breast cancer causes, including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization.

In 2006, nearly $200,000 was raised from Pink Ribbon Bagel sales and donations.

“Panera Bread is committed to serving the members of our local communities, many of whom have had their lives touched by breast cancer,” said Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich. “We are honored to support a variety of organizations fighting to find a cure for breast cancer.”

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

McDonald's logo jeans

According to McChronicles, these are the corporate logo jeans worn by McDonald's employees in China:

Sexy, huh?


Jack's new 'Bold Roast' coffee

Jack in the Box introduced their new "Bold Roast Coffee" yesterday.

They call it "a full-bodied brew that blends coffeehouse quality with fast-food value and convenience."

Jack's new java features a European roast of 100% Arabica beans. It comes in regular and decaf and is served in two sizes – regular (12-ounce, $1.29) and large (16-ounce, $1.49).

"Today's consumers are more knowledgeable about coffee and have higher expectations," said Tammy Bailey, division vice president of menu marketing for Jack in the Box Inc. "They want a brew that has a rich, complex flavor, which our new Bold Roast Coffee delivers."

McDonald's and Chick-fil-a, among other's have already introduced upgraded fast food coffee.

So, fast food restaurants are finally starting to recognize consumers appreciation of better coffee. In fact, earlier this year Consumer Reports ranked McDonald's coffee higher than Starbucks.

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Wendy's controversial graffiti ad

Wendy's has a new ad that is being shown nationwide in movie theaters. It features graffiti artist "Siloette" spray painting her version of "Wendy" on a communal wall in Phoenix. (Watch the ad below.)

But one public servant isn't happy with the ad. Denver, Colorado City Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz has written a letter to Wendy's asking them to stop running the ad. She wrote, "Please do not make our community efforts to stop graffiti vandalism harder and more expensive than it already is."

Faatz pointed out that the city of Denver will spend over a million dollars on graffiti clean-up this year.

Denny Lynch, senior vice president of communications at Wendy's, said the ad celebrates Sillette's distinct style of art and that other videos in the ad campaign feature other styles of art.

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