The first fast food restaurant was White Castle, which opened about a century ago and forever changed how America sees food. However, since its beginning, fast food has undergone many changes, expanding into a countless number of food styles and techniques. One of the biggest changes in the fast food industry was the invention of the fast food breakfast.
The First Fast Food Breakfast
The first fast food breakfast was brought to consumers by McDonald's, back in the early '70s. It all started with a franchise owner named Herb Peterson, who came up with a breakfast sandwich idea. Another franchise owner, Jim Delligatti, had recently begun selling sweet rolls and doughnuts, so the McDonald's breakfast was already slowly taking form.
Peterson reportedly had a deep love of eggs benedict, so his breakfast sandwich was based off this classic. He called it the Egg McMuffin and presented it to the McDonald's CEO at the time, Ray Kroc. The rest is history! This buttery breakfast item, made with bacon, American cheese, butter and a fried egg on an english muffin, was immediately beloved, and within five years, the fast food company offered a full breakfast menu including all of our favorites, from hash browns to sausage to hotcakes.
Now, the breakfast portion of the McDonald's menu makes up to a quarter of the fast food chain's profit. New items were added to the menu over the years, like breakfast burritos, McGriddle sandwiches, and donut sticks. There's even a healthy version of the McMuffin, made with egg white and extra lean bacon. In 2015, McDonald's decided to offer all day breakfast, further establishing itself as an iconic fast food breakfast option.
Other Fast Food Chains Catch On
Although McDonald's was the first to bring us fast food breakfast, other chains were quick on its heels, especially after seeing how successful the new portion of its menu was. Burger King started its breakfast menu in 1979, but had trouble using their flame broilers for breakfast items. They weren't able to offer their own breakfast until four years later.
However, once Burger King got it together with their equipment, their breakfast didn't disappoint. Their varied breakfast menu includes the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich the Croissan'Wich, the Enormous Omelet Sandwich, sausage patty croissants, hash browns, breakfast burritos, and the Maple Waffle sandwich.
Along with Burger King, many fast food chains have done their best to compete with McDonald's breakfast over the years. Taco Bell was out to get the fast food giant in 2014 and 2015, even making an ad where Ronald McDonald said that he loved the Taco Bell breakfast.
Since its Waffle Taco breakfast hit, Taco Bell has expanded its breakfast menu, offering a grilled breakfast burrito, crunch wrap, sausage flatbread quesadilla, and more. The Breakfast Crunchwrap is a popular item, made with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, hash browns and creamy jalapeño sauce. While there are many who love the Taco Bell breakfast menu, it still hasn't succeeded in swiping McDonald's off their fast food throne.
Along with Taco Bell, there are many fast food restaurants trying to find a place in the fast food breakfast market. Carl's Jr. serves a Breakfast Burger, Sonic has a beloved Brunch Burger, and Jack in the Box is beloved for its croissant sandwiches, burritos, and breakfast sandwiches. Even Subway has a selection of breakfast sandwiches, and Chick-fil-A's chick-n-minis have gained a cult-like following.
Plus, coffee chains Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks have plenty of popular breakfast items to accompany their iced coffees and lattes. For just a sweet breakfast treat, Cinnabon has you covered. Consumers looking for something on the healthier side have plenty of options as well, from Panera's bagels or Greek yogurt parfait to
Wendy's Breakfast Struggles
Wendy's has also made their way into the breakfast market, but not without their fair share of hiccups. When Wendy's began offering breakfast in the 80's, in an attempt to replicate McDonald's success, their new breakfast menu items didn't quite hit. The main issue was the speed of service- Wendy's was making every item to order, and this couldn't compete with the speed of pre-made food.
However, the fast food chain eventually found the balance between quality and speed, and their breakfast is a classic pick when you're looking for an early-morning drive-thru. From the Bacon, Egg, & Swiss Croissant to the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit to the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit, it's safe to say that Wendy's has found their niche. Plus, the Breakfast Baconator is a fast food breakfast favorite. It's up for debate on which fast food chain has the best breakfast, but it's safe to say that we've made it a long way from the original Egg McMuffin back in the early 70's!