The History of Fast Food Fails

In our lifetime, lots of things come and go. Just when you’re not looking, your favorite thing just vanishes and is quickly replaced with the next new thing. The same goes for our favorite fast food items. However, there is usually a good explanation for their disappearance, so here are the 10 Biggest Fast Food Failures of All Time.

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McDonald’s — McRib

Approximately 38 years ago, before anyone ever heard of pulled pork sandwiches, McDonald’s created the McRib, a barbecue-flavored pork sandwich that consisted of boneless pork patty made from pork shoulder meat that was molded to resembled a miniature rack of ribs. The sandwich, which consisted of a patty slathered in barbecue sauce, came topped with onions and pickles, served on a 5-and-a-half-inch submarine roll. It was first introduced to the menu in 1981. After poor sales, it was removed from the menu in 1985 and reintroduced a few years later. It stayed on the menu until 2005 in many countries. From 2006 to 2018, the McRib made an occasional reappearance on the menu for a short period of time every year during the fall; but only in markets where sales were good. Nonetheless, McDonald’s executives decided that pork was not eaten as often in most parts of the US for it to stay on the menu long term. In case you are really dying to try the McRib, a short trip abroad is in order to Germany or Luxemburg where a McRib can be had at McDonald’s anytime.

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Burger King — Veal Parmigiana

The Burger King’s Veal Parmigiana sounded like a sure thing in the ’80s. Everyone loved this Italian favorite; it tasted like Nonna’s homemade veal sandwich, slathered with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella on a panini shaped bread. It was delicious, but the introduction of this veal-based sandwich in 1980 did not come without controversy. It caught the eye of many animal rights activists in the US, Canada, and New Zealand. A few years later, several groups were alleging that the veal being sourced to Burger King was inhumane toward the treatment of these animals. They wanted Burger King to stop serving the sandwich, which Burger King refused to do. In protest, a boycott of the sandwiches resulted, and Burger King eventually announced that it intended to pull the sandwich from the market, stating that it was not because of the boycotts, but because there was a lack of consumer demand. In fact, the chain said the sandwich sold best in the markets where the majority of the protests were occurring. The old adage is true: no such thing as bad publicity.

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Pizza Hut — Taco Pizza

This one is for all those kids in the 80’s who will remember Pizza Hut’s Taco Pizza. Who can forget it, it was the best thing to be invented since sliced bread! Introduced in the late ’70s and popular until the ’80s, Pizza Hut’s Taco Pizza came served on their original pizza crust, topped with seasoned ground beef, taco sauce, and a mix of cheddar and melted mozzarella cheese. The lettuce and tomatoes were added on top after it had been cooked. “It was a pizza-looking taco-tasting pizza”, as the commercial says. For those who missed the chance at eating this delicious pizza, it actually looked good and tasted decent. A cross between Mexican and Italian food, it was really popular for a while trying to emulate both food genres.But unfortunately, it was more of a gimmick, something people wanted to try one time, then never returned to. Some chains still make a taco pizza or a variation of it, and all of them are better then the original Pizza Hut Taco Pizza, which was, if we’re being honest, a bit of a monstrosity. We applauded Pizza Hut for thinking out of the box, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

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Wendy’s — Frescata Deli Sandwich

Wendy’s is best known for its square hamburger patties, but in 2006 they came out with a new item, deli sandwiches. Wendy decided to cut in on Subway’s action and also increase their profit margin in that market and began offering their own line of freshly prepared deli sandwiches. Sold under the name Frescata, the sandwiches offered multiple variations on the ham and cheese sandwich; they served it on an artisanal bread and even got all fancy by offering dabs of pesto. The sandwiches in the Frescata line up included the Frescata Club, Roasted Turkey with pesto & Swiss, Black Forest Ham & Swiss, and Chunky Chicken Salad Frescata. The word Frescata in Italian means fresh, the sandwiches were freshly prepared and initially welcomed as a lower-calorie and healthier alternative to Wendy’s burgers and fries. However, the idea never really caught on due to poor sales. The other major glitch was that it took too long to prepare the sandwiches, and people were waiting awhile in line to receive them. Wendy’s discontinued the sandwiches a year later.

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Burger King — Burger Bundles

Burger King has had no shortage of epic food failures, none more evident than their Burger Bundles which were released in 1987. Presented as a slider, a very small hamburger meant obviously for massive consumption. Burger King figured they were so small, that people would have to order two or more at a time to really get their fill. Therefore, doubling their sales and resulting in more money in their pockets. The Burger Bundles were popular with teens and the late-night crowd, who did not have too much money to spend after an evening of partying. Despite their popularity, the burger bundles had their issues as well. Preparation was tedious and difficult as they had to assemble so many more, because of their size. The cooks also had issues with the cooking process as they would fall through the grills on the stoves. Sometimes they were losing more patties that ended in the garbage at the end of the night, than those that actually made it out of the kitchen and were sold. Ultimately, the technical demands required to make them proved too much, and they were discontinued just months after they were introduced. Greediness came back to bite them in the buns.

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McDonald’s — Hula Burger

McDonald’s has also had its share of failures. It is normal for the marketing team to think up new ideas to please its customers, following the trends of the day. But nothing was more inane than the invention of this burger from McDonald’s. The Hula Burger was a meatless burger introduced in the 1960s by Ray Kroc. Today meatless burgers, like Beyond Meat, are popular because of the introduction of vegan lifestyles. This burger was invented as a substitute for American Catholics who could not eat meat on Fridays. The burger consisted of a slice of grilled pineapple with cheese on a bun. It was designed to go up against the Filet-O-Fish, which was created by a Catholic McDonald’s Franchisee Lou Groen. McDonald’s killed the Hula Burger early on, as it became quickly evident that its alternative, the Filet-O-Fish, was getting much better traction.

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McDonald’s — Fish McBites

McDonald’s Fish McBites were small pieces of flaky white fish dipped in batter and deep-fried until they were golden brown and served with tartar sauce for dipping. They were offered in three sizes; snack (10 pieces), regular (15 pieces) and shareable (30 pieces). The Fish McBites were a welcome change and the first new addition to the Happy Meal menu in a decade. Again, they mostly were marketed and catered to Catholics during Lent and were specifically meant to have a short run. But Fish McBites failed to hook enough diners to get the fast-food chain’s U.S. sales any growth for one clear reason: they were marketed to the wrong demographic. Happy Meals cater to children and not many kids like fish, even if they look like nuggets. The launch marked the start of what McDonald’s said was a bigger pipeline of new limited-time offers. By adding more variety to its menu, the company was hoping to fend off competition and tempt customers to eat out more. The Filet-O fish remains a popular contender for fish during Lent, and the McBites did not really catch on. But battered, deep-fried fish isn’t an unusual menu item, and given that Lent happens every year, maybe these could one day return.

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Pizza Hut — Bigfoot Pizza

Pizza Hut’s Bigfoot Pizza was a big thing in the ’90s, named so because of its size. It was one of their more popular pizzas. The pizza measured 12 inches by 24 inches (or 2 square feet) and was cut into twenty-one slices. Ideal for parties, big groups, or a very hungry family with lots of leftovers for breakfast the next morning. With the Bigfoot, you could choose up to three toppings of your liking for under $11.00. There were all kinds of extra promotional things surrounding the Bigfoot Pizza. In 1993, Pizza Hut put in a free trial month of HBO or a free video rental from Blockbuster with a purchase of the Bigfoot as a limited-time offer. There was also the “Bigfoot Big Six”, which was a variation with six different toppings and sold for the same price as the standard Bigfoot. Throughout the ’90s, Pizza Hut offered and combined all kinds of promo stuff like free admission to theme parks, extra pizza toppings and much more. This pizza competed with the likes of Little Caesars’ Big! Big! Cheese and the Dominator from Domino’s Pizza. The Bigfoot won over big time. So we know what you’re thinking, this sounds like hit! Why is it on our failures list? The fail is on Pizza Hut’s part for retiring this beloved pizza for no apparent reason. It was one of their more popular items, came in at a great price, and people still clamor for its comeback to this day! Come on Pizza Hut, we love you, make your wrong a right and bring back the Bigfoot!

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McDonald’s — McDLT

Even though McDonald’s has a dominant position in the US marketplace, they still have to attract customers. Marketing departments and research teams are constantly on the lookout for new ways to attract customers with new and better ideas. However, not all of the ideas can be successful all the time. But we have to give it to McDonald’s for trying. In the ’80s, the decade of excess, McDonald’s introduced the McDLT. It was a simple idea, nothing more than a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, packaged in a double-sided Styrofoam container that kept “the hot side and the cold side separate”. It was the customer’s job to put the two sides together, ensuring a balanced burger and evenly distributed heat. It was sold on the premise that it was more appetizing this way. McDonald’s was already facing public relations issues because of its environmental unfriendly standards concerning too much packaging, the McDLT only emphasized their problems. The burger was discontinued in 1990, because of the backlash it received regarding the container, which was its signature feature. The Styrofoam containers fell out of favor because of environmental concerns, and some stores were still serving up the cold ingredients warm anyways, defying the whole purpose. The product was withdrawn and never made an appearance again.

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Taco Bell — XXL Chalupa

Taco Bell is another fast-food chain that tries very hard with different concepts to please their customers. In 2010, they came out with the XXL Chalupa. The XXL Chalupa was 57% larger than the original Chalupa and contained more seasoned ground beef, crispy lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and nacho cheese sauce, topped with sour cream all rolled up in one big Chalupa flatbread. When Taco Bell announced the debut of its new Oversized Chalupa the customers were ecstatic, now they could have double their favorite meal. The chain generated an insane amount of hype among fans with a fake magazine type advertisement. The double-stuffed fried tortilla looked pretty awesome, and over the top. The problem arose when the customers ordered the meal but it did not look anything like the pictures. Apparently, the restaurant was not delivering twice the amount of meat filling and toppings as promised in their ads. Customers were very disappointed and took to the internet. The complaints were that they were being duped into paying more for almost the same thing as a regular chalupa. The XXL Chalupa was removed from the menu a few short months after it was launched. In 2011, they tried to bring back a version of the large Chalupa, calling it The Double, but it failed again. Taco Bell does not give up easily when they know they have a good thing; they keep trying to bring this one back from the dead.

Written by

A modern millennial guy with a cute little family. Located in Southern California. I like writing about fun topics that are interesting to learn about.

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