Yum! Brands (YUM) – Get Yum! Brands Inc. Report Taco Bell used to use the tagline “think outside the bun” to highlight how its Mexican menu differed from the sandwiches offered by McDonald’s (MCD) – Get McDonald’s Corporation Report, Wendy’s (WEN) – Get Wendy’s Company (The) Report, and Restaurant Brands International’s (QSR) – Get Restaurant Brands International Inc. Report Burger King.
The fast-food chain wanted customers to embrace the idea that they could get something different at Taco Bell and more recently the chain has experimented with the idea by literally using a piece of fried chicken as a taco. That’s an idea it borrowed from sister company KFC, which used two pieces of fried chicken as the bun on its famed (and often-ridiculed) KFC Double Down.
And while the Naked Chicken Chalupa and the Double Down were both successful, they’re biggest contribution may be that they changed the idea of how you might serve a sandwich (or sandwich-like product). That has led to the obvious — bread free bowls popping up everywhere from Chipotle (CMG) – Get Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. Report to the odd pizza bowls offered by Marcos Pizza — and some less obvious attempts to use alternatives to bread to hold a sandwich.
That’s a concept that McDonald’s has embraced in a way that could (eventually) become a global sensation.
McDonald’s Has a New Take On Sandwich Buns
McDonald’s tend to be the most innovative outside the United States. It’s locations in Japan introduced a unique take on a sandwich bun back in 2000. The company has since introduced all sort of variants of its Gohan line which Sora News 24 explained.
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“It wasn’t until last year that they finally started offering rice burgers. Sort of a sandwich/rice ball hybrid, rice burgers replace the burger’s buns with two discs of rice, lightly grilled to give them some extra texture and consistency and brushed with a soy glaze,” the website reported.
The fast-food chain has rotated in a bunch of sandwich varieties using the rice buns. It currently offers the Gohan Chicken Garlic Bacon, Gohan Shrimp Spicy Flavor, and the Gohan Teriyaki.
In the past, it offered the Gohan Chiken Ninniku Kuro Kosho, which features the rice buns, a crisp breaded chicken breast patty sandwiched inside the rice along with a slice of cheddar cheese, lettuce, and, a garlic and black pepper sauce. McDonald’s has also at times offered the “Delicious Spicy Shrimp Rice Burger (Gohan Ebi Umakara Shitate). McDonald’s first-ever shellfish rice burger, this one is build around a shrimp cutlet, skips the cheese, and is graced by a sauce of garlic and akatogarashi, Japanese red pepper,” Sora News 24 reported.
Could McDonald’s Rice Buns Come to the U.S.?
While rice buns may not immediately seem like something that would fit U.S. tastes, it’s possible the chain could consider adapting the Gohan for its home market. The Japanese version contains wheat so it is not gluten-free. That could easily be changed as rice itself does not contain gluten (there’s likely wheat in the breading on the “bun.”
Americans have generally not responded well to gluten-free offerings at fast-food chains. That’s likely because most gluten-free buns are poor substitutes for the real thing. In this case, with some recipe changes, McDonald’s might be able to go gluten-free in a way that’s more natural than offering a gluten-free bun (which some chains have tried).
Healthy, however (or at least the vague appearance of being healthy) has not been a success for McDonald’s. The chain has dropped all of its salads and it’s McPlant planet-based burger option has largely been a failure in the U.S.