Fast-Casual Nation

To compete with the likes of Five Guys, the Big Three burger empires are raising their game

Javier Sirvent for TIME

Fast-Casual Nation. To compete with the likes of Five Guys, the Big Three burger empires are raising their game.

There's a Wendy's in Wichita, Kans., where you can choose between a bacon portabella Black Label burger (with mushroom sauce and Muenster cheese), an apple pecan chicken salad, a Monterey ranch crispy-chicken sandwich and an Asiago ranch chicken club. The lineup bears little resemblance to Wendy's burgers-and-fries menu of even a few years ago--and it's a big reason Wendy's was able to edge out Burger King for the first time last year to become the country's No. 2 hamburger chain, according to numbers released last month by food-industry research firm Technomic.

Fast-food joints are redefining themselves. They're placing a sharper focus...