The restaurant industry is more competitive than ever.
In an attempt to win over discriminating and cash-strapped customers this year, restaurant chains went all out with some cool innovations.
We chose a few of our game-changing favorites from the past 12 months.1. McDonald's "build your own burger" technology
Consumers have been eager to personalize their food, as shown by the popularity of fast-casual chains like Five Guys and Chipotle.
McDonald's has been testing a concept that lets customers use tablets to build their own burgers with toppings like guacamole, bacon, or jalapenos.
The brand is also offering consumers the option to upgrade their breakfast sandwiches with egg whites or white cheddar.2. McDonald's mozzarella sticks
The mozzarella sticks are being sold in select New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut markets. You can get 3 for $1.
Business Insider tried the mozzarella sticks, and can confirm they taste good.3. Taco Bell breakfast
Taco Bell decided to challenge McDonald's for the breakfast market this year.
The fast food chain's core breakfast menu includes the Waffle Taco, A.M. Crunchwrap, and Cinnabon Delights.
Since then, the brand has added yogurt and a variety of breakfast burritos.4. Taco Bell quesarito
The menu item, a burrito wrapped in a quesadilla, was first made popular on Chipotle's secret menu.
The cheese-quesadilla-wrapped burrito has potential to become the Mexican chain's next smash it.
It's Taco Bell's best-selling test product since the test of the Doritos Locos Taco, which is the chain's most successful menu item ever, according to the company.5. Taco Bell's "CrunchWrap Sliders" stuffed with Fritos
Americans are increasingly watching their calorie counts.
As a result, Taco Bell released "CrunchWrap Sliders." They're a smaller (and lower calorie) version of the original.
Taco Bell's latest iteration of the $1 sliders are stuffed with Fritos.6. Burger King's Chicken Fries
Chicken Fries were originally launched in 2005. Despite a cult following, they were discontinued in 2012.
The company said it decided to bring back the fries after seeing petitions, tweets, and Facebook pages begging for their return.
Fans of Chicken Fries say they are easier to dip in sauce than traditional nuggets.7. Burger King Japan's "Black Burger"
The burger has a black bun and cheese and is supposed to be ninja-themed. It's highly popular in Japan, where black cheese isn't considered to be gross.8. Burger King's Whoppers at breakfast
The fast food chain began offering some core menu items for breakfast, too.
"Selling Burgers at Breakfast at Burger King restaurants allows our guests to start their day being their way—either with the great flame broiled taste of our signature burgers and sandwiches or with our delicious suite of breakfast offerings" the company told Burger Business.9. Chipotle's tofu
The vegetarian Sofritas chili was the first new menu addition in 20 years.
Chipotle said the new item can be served over regular meat or stand as a protein by itself.10. Dunkin' Donuts version of the "cronut"
Dunkin' Donuts released a croissant donut, though the company denied copying the famous New York bakery that invented the hybrid dessert.
Business Insider's testers were underwhelmed by the concoction.
"Tastes exactly like a normal glazed donut from Dunkin. It's a little thicker and fluffier, but there's no difference taste-wise," one reviewer shared.
Others said the product tasted like an "ordinary donut" and a "normal glazed donut" from the brand.11. Starbucks delivery
Starbucks will start delivering food and beverages in select markets next year.
"Imagine the ability to create a standing order that Starbucks delivered hot or iced to your desk daily — that’s our version of ecommerce on steroids," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said on an earnings call with analysts.12. Starbucks' premium cafe with better coffee.
Starbucks is delving into the high-end coffee market with a new kind of store that the designer compared to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
The first Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room recently opened in Seattle, and the company has plans to build another 100 locations in the coming years.
See Also:Why Wendy's Won't Serve BreakfastWal-Mart CEO Says Customers Don't Want To Walk Through Huge SupercentersThe Top 5 Franchises For 2015
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