Here's a way for fast-food joints to thumb their noses at proposed limits on sugary drinks and sell more of the fizzy stuff: Promote it in the morning.
Three chains - Steak 'n Shake and some Taco Bell and Sonic locations - are promoting soft drinks on morning menus. The move comes as sugary drinks have taken heat with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the mayor of Cambridge, Mass., who want limits on large sizes.
"Oh my God, ask a dentist," says consultant Linda Lipsky. "They're doing it because it's more profitable than coffee."
The trend is real. In the 12 months through April, morning soft drink servings at big burger chains rose 3% vs. a 3% drop the year before, reports researcher NPD Group/CREST.
No one needs drinks with added sugar "any time," says Hope Warshaw, author of Guide to Healthy Restaurant Eating.
Among morning promos:
•Steak 'n Shake is offering a free breakfast taco with the $1.79 purchase of a 28-ounce Coca-Cola 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., through July 11. A Facebook coupon is required. The company declined to comment.
•Taco Bells in Southern California and Fresno are testing MTN Dew A.M. - an orange juice and Mountain Dew mix served until 11 a.m. It's "in response to consumer demand," says spokesman Rob Poetsch. Mountain Dew maker Pepsi had no comment .
•Sonic has "Morning Drink Stop" promos in some markets, with 99-cent fountain drinks. Executives declined to comment because the promo is local.
Morning cola must be getting hot. Brad Pitt took some heat after admitting he sometimes gives his kids Coke for breakfast to help wake them up.