As pervasive as energy drinks are, it’s notable that you can’t order them at fast-food restaurants. Surely some drivers on long road trips would want the extra dose of caffeine alongside their burger or burrito, right? Sonic has stepped up to the plate with new Red Bull slushies; its executives tell Bloomberg Sonic is the first fast-food chain to partner with Red Bull. The company hopes the menu addition will “pull in the so-called young, hungry males who have remained loyal fast-food customers even as eating habits shift in the U.S.”
Given “young, hungry males” are still a dependable demographic for the fast food industry, Sonic will now dangle Red Bull in front of their eyes like a hypnotist’s watch: You are getting veeeeery hungry and probably low on caffeine. The Bloomberg piece notes that Sonic has mostly avoided adding healthier items to its menu, even as other fast-food chains add healthier choices to kids’ meals and roll out vegetarian menus. Sonic’s new menu items include an all-day bacon- and fried-egg-topped Brunch Burger and a Double Stuf Oreo Waffle Cone, and the chain is reportedly working on Broccoli Cheese Tots, which potentially pass for a healthy option these days.
“I don’t know why we would do a salad,” Scott Uehlein, Sonic’s vice president of product innovation and development at Sonic, said at an event Wednesday. “But we can do some tots.”
We can perhaps look at this as a microcosm of fast-food in general: By innovating to reach more health-conscious consumers, do chains risk alienating their base, their core customers who like triple beef patties and soft-serve ice cream and bacon fries? Or can fast-food restaurants straddle that line, offering something for everyone? An analysis of fast food meals over the past 30 years recently found the drive-thru board is less healthy than ever, packing more sodium and calories per year than in the past. And now, more caffeine, too.