Many of the new menu items are mashups of two or more foods that are typically sold on their own. Poof, a product that seems drawn up by a mad scientist is born.
Importantly for fast food joints, the bizarre new products usually sell at premium prices and get people chattering about them on social media. The downside? They are often caloric bombs that hit the waistline hard at a time when fast food chains are under fire for their unhealthy menus.
One example of the fast food mashup was drive-in restaurant Sonic's (SONC) chocolate jalapeño shake that it introduced in the summer 2014. Available for a limited time, it was a vanilla ice cream milkshake with chocolate syrup and real jalapeño slices.
This summer, Sonic has taken its mashup intensity down a notch, unveiling a croissant hot dog ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend. The product, as the name implies, uses a buttery, flaky croissant that could easily be eaten all by itself and wraps it around a hot dog.
But not every fast-food player is convinced of the need to create mashups to spur sales and create social media buzz. A spokeswoman at McDonald's (MCD) said the burger giant "has no such menu item in the works." Similarly a Wendy's (WEN) spokesman replied, "Not that I am aware of" when asked via email if the company was testing any unusual combinations.
At donut maker Krispy Kreme (KKD), a spokesperson said, "I'm not aware of us testing any mashups -- of course, you periodically get someone making a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger or hot dog to sell at a county fair or some other event, but those are not Krispy Kreme approved or endorsed."
Nevertheless, some chains have clearly embraced the trend. TheStreet takes a look at three of the hottest fast-food mashups appearing on menus this summer, ranked from fewest calories to the most.