Photo: Neville Elder (Getty Images)

Oh, the times, they are a-changin’. For a glut of fast food franchises seeking to adapt to changing expectations, market disruption from the fast-casual industry, health concerns, ownership turnover, and surging competition, setting oneself apart in some kind of distinctive way is paramount. For at least one southern U.S. chain, it’s a look back to the (recent) past that will hopefully reveal a path to the future.

While buffet meals still hold strong around the country thanks to Golden Corral, Old Country Buffet and the like, the all-you-can-eat dining model is less common in the fast food world, and has historically included caveats like restricted hours. But now Krystal, which currently has 344 locations across 10 southern states (with 118 of them in its native Georgia alone), is embracing that very approach. Restaurant Business reports that for a limited time, Krystal will be selling bottomless burgers and fries for $5.99 at all locations. (Yes, we know the header image doesn’t look all too appetizing, but Getty Images giveth and taketh.)

For a burger that hews closer to the slider model than your average fast food offering, it’s a shrewd maneuver for Krystal, even if the question of whether giving away burgers like they’re going out of style will be profitable in the long run. But it’s the kind of shake-up that could give a boost to the chain, while also leading the Takeout staff to wonder what else a fast food chain can do these days to draw in the option-loaded customer:

  • A broader diversity of menu options
  • Mascots at every location, daily
  • Additional mascots for each chain
  • A surplus of mascots, is what we’re driving at here
  • What Krystal’s doing, but you have to answer three riddles from a sphinx to be served
  • At least a third of all U.S. fast food restaurants are converted into Steak N’ Shake locations for the public good
  • Actually selling vegan “meat” when you claim to be
  • Improved recipes

In a strangely depressing statement, Krystal president/CEO Paul Macaluso observed of the offer that “Krystal was born during the Great Depression, when people needed a fresh and filling meal at a price they could afford.”

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The offer stands at all Krystal locations, for the time being.