A latter-day, fast-food-loving Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in, say, 2007, then awoke today and went into any of his favorite restaurant chains for a snack would be in for a big surprise.
Over the past few years, almost every major brand has overhauled its interior design, its menu or both. The fast food landscape has changed tremendously in a very short time. The Huffington Post has always been committed to covering these changes in an incremental way, giving you a heads up when Hooters announces a facelift or Pizza Hut releases yet another strange menu item.
Yet as we started to think a little more broadly about the nature of these changes, we couldn't help but notice a few trends. Similarities between the "innovations" at different chains. And not just a couple. A lot. Check out what we discovered:
Infographic by Jan Diehm for the Huffington Post.
Also on HuffPost:
That's right, McDonald's actually once served a <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/roadsidepictures/1544645159/">pizza</a>. The company <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/09/20/business/mcdonald-s-hopes-pizza-will-be-the-next-mchit.html">hoped the idea would be its next "McHit</a>" around 1989, according to the New York Times. The item was largely considered a <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/news/pf_article_113424.html">fail</a>, but that hasn't stopped a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/BRING-MCDONALDS-MINI-PIZZAS-BACK/296327889050">cult following</a> from forming around the dish.
It's a turkey, but it's also a cake, but it's also ice cream? This slightly bizarre specialty item became available in November of 2012.
The pizza debuted in 1993 and was nearly 2 feet long, according to Doug Terfehr, Director of Public Relations for Pizza Hut. What's not to love about 2 feet of pizza?
The <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nyer82/4522189922/">sandwich</a> is rather simple: just chicken cheese and bacon, sans the bread. But that hasn't stopped over <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/20/kfc-double-down-success-s_n_583434.html">10 million people from trying it</a>.
McDonald's first introduced this mint-flavored shake topped with whipped cream and a cherry in 1970. Since then, it has garnered somewhat of a cult following at McDonald's. Despite such popularity, it can still only be purchased during certain times of the year.
After it busted onto the scene in<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/cool-ranch-doritos-tacos-release-date_n_2672134.html?1360771758&ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000067"> March of 2012</a>, the Doritos locos taco quickly became the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/doritos-locos-most-popular_n_1571160.html">most popular item in Taco Bell history</a>. In February, the fast food chain announced that a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/06/doritos-locos-taco-sales-taco-bell_n_2631552.html">whopping 325 million had been sold</a>.
The Memphis BBQ sandwich, which hit menus last June, includes Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet ‘n Spicy BBQ sauce, bringing a bit of country cooking to Burger King's menu. And it may have just inspired other fast food chains, like Carl's Jr and Hardee's, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/carls-jr-hardees-bbq-pulled-pork-burger_n_1818619.html">to explore BBQ-themed items as well</a>.
Every fall, customers begin to crave <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffhester/6179580054/">Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte</a>, so much so that the coffee giant struggled with a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/05/pumpkin-spice-latte-shortage-starbucks-limited-supply-high-demand_n_1942289.html">shortage</a> last year due to have demand. (Containers of the syrup sold for as much as $50 on eBay.)
The cheesy tots first made their way onto Burger King's menu in 2010, only to disappear later that year. That eventually led to a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Burger-King-Bring-back-Cheesy-Tots/229469816570">Facebook campaign </a> to bring the tots back, which proved successful when they reappeared last month.
The barbecue-slathered McRib was such a hit in 1981 that it became a seasonal menu item the next year. The item is so popular, in fact, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/mcdonalds-profits-mcrib_n_2532822.html">that it even boosted McDonald's profits at the end of last year</a>.