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NEW YORK — Fast-food chains are increasingly offering smaller portion sizes and mini versions of standard menu items in order to attract consumers in search of a small treat, a cheap bite to eat or something extra at mealtime, according to an Associated Press report.
Recent items in this trend include Arby's lineup of sliders, which includes smaller versions of its existing sandwiches for less than $2 each, and Taco Bell's Dare Devil Loaded Grillers, which are three varieties of small burritos for $1 each. Sonic is also bringing back mini hot dogs and chicken sandwiches after a limited-time offering earlier this year.
In addition to mini versions of standard menu items, some chains have launched products that are specifically intended to be snacks, not meals, such as Burger King's chicken fries. Some of these items are also designed to be easy to eat while on the go. Popeyes' Rip'n Chicken is shaped to let customers tear pieces off easily.
"What we're seeing is the definition of meals is changing," stated Popeyes CEO Cheryl Bachelder.
While snackable items have appeared on fast-food menus before, they may be more important today due to changing competition. Fast-food chains are losing out to convenience store chains such as Wawa Inc. because c-stores do a better job with smaller, cheaper products, according to Arby's Chief Marketing Officer Rob Lynch.
"They're getting this business because the restaurant industry hasn't built a platform that meets this need," Lynch said.
Smaller portion sizes are another way to draw in deal-seeking consumers, but rising ingredient costs have made it difficult to offer standard dollar menus, according to the report. McDonald's and Wendy's both swapped out their dollar menus for value menus that include a range of prices, but both companies have acknowledged the need to offer more to those searching for value.
In addition to attracting snackers, mini menu items can serve as a way to get customers to spend more and sample new items.
"They want to try different things, but they don't want a whole additional sandwich," Lynch added.