Fast Food Coffee – What Are You Drinking?

It used to be that “fast food coffee” was a term of disdain. After all, how good could the coffee be in a fast food hamburger joint that specialized in getting food out the window fast? Until a couple of years ago, places like McDonalds and Burger King didn’t put much thought into their coffee, and it showed.

As the fast food restaurants started aiming for the breakfast market, however, the flavor of the coffee became an important factor. When coffee chains like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts started selling breakfast sandwiches and competing with the established breakfast drive through crowd, it became the key to bringing in the morning trade. With half a dozen drive-thru restaurants on the way to work, most folks will stop at the one with that offers the coffee they like best.

McDonalds recognized this a while ago. They also recognized that coffee is not their forte. Rather than attempt to hit the market with their own brand of coffee or roasting their own beans, they logically turned to a market giant to source their coffee. In 2005, Mickey D inked a deal with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to provide Newman’s Own Organic coffees for all of their New England restaurants. Since then, they’ve added premium coffees for the McCafe line, which originated in Australia in the early 1990s.

In November, 2009, Subway, the country’s largest sandwich chain, announced a partnership with Starbucks to serve Seattle’s Best Coffee through over 9,000 stores in the U.S. and 800 in Canada. According to Forbes, Subway has been working to break into the breakfast market, and, as noted before, coffee is vital if you’re going to bring in the breakfast trade. Starbucks, which acquired the Seattle’s Best label in 2004, has been fighting its own battles with holding on to market share. After closing hundreds of stores around the world in 2008 and 2009, they’re putting part of their focus on marketing products outside their cafes.


In February, 2010, Burger King became the latest fast food chain to join the coffee wars. In 2005, BK tried to compete with Mickey D by introducing BKJoe, a premium blend of coffee made just for Burger King. BKJoe has apparently outlived its usefulness. It will be phased out over the next few months as Burger King rolls out a new breakfast menu, rounded out by a deal with Starbucks to sell – you guessed it – Seattle’s Best Coffee at all Burger King locations.

So, just in case you haven’t been keeping track, here’s the current coffee rundown:

Starbucks sells Starbucks coffee, or course.

McDonalds sells Newman’s Own Organics in New England and Albany, NY. McDonalds Premium Coffee blend was developed by F. Gavina & Sons, one of the largest gourmet coffee roasters in the country. Gavina’s best known supermarket brand is Don Francisco, so if you like Don Francisco coffee, chances are that Mickey D Premium Coffee Blend will suit your taste buds.

Subway is selling four different blends roasted by Seattle’s Best Coffee, which is owned by Starbucks.

And starting in February, 2010, Burger King is hopping on the bandwagon with Starbucks to go head to head against McDonalds’ Premium with Seattle’s Best Coffee.