Fast-Food Chains Want You to Eat More than the Usual Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

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You’d think that McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other chains would be satisfied to draw in crowds who come during the normal meal hours and who order food and beverages that are normally enjoyed during those hours. Instead, in the never ending quest to boost sales at all hours of each and every day, fast-food chains find it far too limiting to accept classic nutritional concepts — like that there should only be three meals per day and that it’s not a good idea to start the day off with a sugary soft drink.

Here are a few questions fast-food giants are posing to consumers:

2 a.m. Breakfast, Anyone?
For a few weeks now, reports Columbus Business First, McDonald’s has been testing out “Breakfast After Midnight” at more than 100 locations in central Ohio. As soon as the clock strikes 12, customers can order Egg McMuffins, breakfast burritos, hotcakes and other favorites normally only served during the morning hours.

The program is part of McDonald’s “Nocturnivore” campaign, aimed at attracting late-night (or very early morning) diners who are hungry, or perhaps just bored and looking for something to do, to its restaurants, which are increasingly open 24 hours a day. For obvious reasons, the wee hours of the morning are the slowest for business at fast-food restaurants. Just 1% of quick-service-restaurant foot traffic arrives between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. But McDonald’s wants to change that and is waving the prospect of an extremely early breakfast as a way to drum up business during the normally dead time period.

(MORE: 10 Unusual Places That Are Open All Night Long)

Soda: Breakfast of Champions?
USA Today recently highlighted the minipush to encourage fast-food diners to have a sugary soft drink with breakfast rather than the usual orange juice or coffee. In one promotion, Steak ‘n Shake was offering a free breakfast taco with the purchase of a $1.79 28-oz. Coca-Cola between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. A 28-oz. soda, by the way, would be a full can’s worth (12 oz.) in excess of the soda ban proposed in New York City.

Since May, meanwhile, many Taco Bells have been promoting what they call Mtn Dew A.M., a concoction mixing Mountain Dew and orange juice, served until 11 a.m.

(MORE: Why We Stopped Buying Fast-Food Combo Meals)

And why are chains encouraging the shift to soda as the accompaniment of the morning meal? “They’re doing it because it’s more profitable than coffee,” consultant Linda Lipsky told USA Today.

Why Be Limited to Three Meals a Day?
By trying to attract “nocturnivores” with new late-night hours and the expansion of the breakfast menu, McDonald’s is clearly encouraging consumers to consider squeezing in an extra meal in the course of a day. While McDonald’s never mentions the idea of a “fourth meal,” for years Taco Bell has had no trouble overtly making the case for pushing beyond the commonly accepted nutritional concept of three squares a day.

(MORE: Top 10 Conspicuously Expensive Purchases)

The chain’s “Fourthmeal” campaign may have been mocked as gluttonous when it was originally presented to the public, but it never really went away. Among Taco Bell’s latest suggestions for a fourth meal in the day are Volcano Tacos, Cheese Roll-Ups and Nachos BellGrande.

Think of them, perhaps, as appetizers to enjoy on the way to a 2 a.m. breakfast at McDonald’s.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

23 comments
ChowT
ChowT

I think all these fastfood joints are extremely unhealthy.

Up to us to take care of overselves.

Just dont go.

thecrud
thecrud

Their food is no longer affordable. they take a hit on coffee, were not buying combos were tapped out. soon they will no longer blight the roads most will slowly die.

I have personally started buying flour in 100 lbs bags again and baking all my own goods.

I was surprised just how easy it was to do a better job than wally world, insert grocery store here.

Noodles my god what I had been missing.

Garden some tomato's and peppers in the back yard best thing I ever did.

Full Stop
Full Stop

Fast-food breakfasts are disgusting. Last time I took one at McDonald's, I felt worse leaving the restaurant than when I came in. You kind of question your progress in life when you're sitting there at 7 a.m. with the homeless and some saggy egg sausage burger dripping on the table. Hail America.

K P
K P

You mean big corporations want to make as much money as they can for themselves without regard for the well-being of their customers?! Get right outta town. ಠ_ಠ

MaxxxFreedom
MaxxxFreedom

Too bad the Volcano Menu at Taco Bell is gone forever.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

There's nothing sacrosanct about 3 meals a day.  Some argue than small portions several more times a day is more healthy.  The problem is not when to eat but what to eat.

obbop
obbop

Unemployed folks, the homeless and the ever-growing ranks of the folks at the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy shout with glee what with it being easier to dumpster dive for vittles in the still of the night.

Antiehypocrite
Antiehypocrite

America is the epicentre of the sickness that is spreading around the world like a cancer.

bellaluna30
bellaluna30

*psst*  Hey, McDonald's amp; Taco Bell!  I can order any menu item from Jack in the Box at any time of day!

Additionally, 24 hour fast-food places where I'm from (originally, not where I live now) are the busiest places in town after 1 or 2 am, because that's when the bars and clubs close.  

I used to work overnights.  My lunch was between 1:30 and 3 a.m. so I KNOW what I'm talking about.  And we had the choice of 2 Jack in the Boxes, Carl's Junior, IHOP, Del Taco, and 2 Mexican places.

Talendria
Talendria

Nothing good can come of this.

Lindsay J. Workman
Lindsay J. Workman

I used to work overnights.  My lunch was between 1:30 and 3 a.m. so I KNOW what I'm talking about.  And we had the choice of 2 Jack in the Boxes, Carl's Junior, IHOP, Del Taco, and 2 Mexican places. http://FreeLancerGetWork.blogs...

Albert Shortleg Dachshund-Dogg
Albert Shortleg Dachshund-Dogg

The obeastizing of the USA!  The only people you find in these places at 2 am are the drunken, rowdy, ready to fight, confrontational, 15 napkin using slobs who were out partying the night away. I still believe anyone out after 11 pm is up to no good, unless they are heading to or from work.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Gabriel Strasburg
Gabriel Strasburg

 LOL, Albert is an idiot.

Albert Shortleg Dachshund-Dogg
Albert Shortleg Dachshund-Dogg

I am not. I have an owner who opens every door for me, feeds me, does not care if I sleep all day, I've never had a job in my life and I eat better then he does. He buys me all kinds of goodies, blankets, toys, and will take me out for a walk on demand. If he doesn't he get a present he does not appreciate.He thinks he has me trained, I have him trained ! What a sucker this guy is.

Gato Stevens
Gato Stevens

Sure it is mostly low lifes´and party people at 3 AM but I remember when working split shifts, going in or leaving at 3 AM. It sure would have been nice to see some lights on and a place to stop for food.

Ruth Raynor
Ruth Raynor

I agree with your first point, but not the later. I happen to like going for night time walks and soaking up the feeling of the city at night. YMMV, of course, if you live in the suburbs.

Albert Shortleg Dachshund-Dogg
Albert Shortleg Dachshund-Dogg

I'm a suburban Dog. I am the one who leaves presents on your front lawn.  In the City , my owner has to pick up after me.  But I sure would not mind taking a stroll through the City lights at 3am. Lot's of  human legs to hump ! Woof Woof !