Bullet Points: The 10 Biggest Missteps In Fast FoodByLukas Kaiser & Erik Amonson December 12, 2007 - 9:30 am |
We brought you the greatest advancements in fast food. So you KNOW we had bring you their missteps too. Boo-ya!
•Taco Bell/KFC Rat Store
In March of this year, a combined Taco Bell/KFC store in downtown Manhattan got national attention thanks to a little rat problem. Well, it was more than a little rat problem... check this video out:
We've all heard about the various corner-cuttings fast food joints employ when keeping the health and safety of their stores up to snuff. Hell, there's a cottage industry based on that (from Upton Sinclair to "Fast Food Nation"). But there had never been a case when the fast food industry's flagrant dismissing of health codes was so on display. I mean, c'mon people, there were RATS jumping around and shitting all over the chairs.
I feel personally sick because I used to eat at that Taco Bell/KFC while going to NYU. Thankfully, I never saw any rats pooping directly into my burritos, so out of sight, out mind, right?
Thankfully, this franchise was closed permanently. Out of the "guilt by association" law, several other Taco Bells were closed around the New York tri-state area. None of the other stores were found to be quite as disgusting as the Rat Store on West 4th street, but I'll say this...I haven't eaten at a Taco Bell since. Strangely enough, I haven't had the runs since either. Coincidence?
•The Arch Deluxe
Hot on the heels of another McDonald's burger flop, the utterly flavorless "McLean", The Arch Deluxe was hyped up as the adult fast food alternative. A more mature burger for a more mature clientele. Sadly for McDonalds, it was overpriced and tasted like a swamp. It was essentially a Big Mac with a fancier bun and -- in the place of special sauce -- someone ate asparagus and peed on it.
Naturally, what made the Arch Deluxe a colossal failure wasn't the fact that it didn't sell (although it didn't); as mentioned, the McLean couldn't get off those heated steel shelves, either, as has been the case with countless failing fast food items. No, the Arch Deluxe's place in ignominy was secured by a massive accompanying advertising blitz. Not only did McDonald's manage to conceive a bad idea and watch it sink, they had the poor fortune to pay over $100 million dollars in advertising to do it. That's staggering, especially considering that they could have hired me to pee on their Big Macs for free.
•Domino's Delivery Accidents
Remember when the fastest pizza wasn't the frozen one you could make at home but rather a pipin' hot large Domino's Pie? Well, it's been about 10 years since the pizza chain discontinued their 30 minutes or less guarantee (if you didn't get your 'za in 30 mins or less, it was free) and though urban legends still state this was because a driver killed a kid, the truth is slightly less horrible but still pretty bad--the guarantee was discontinued not because of one fatal car accident but thanks to several non-fatal ones.
Let's face it, when you factor in proper cooking time, it's impossible to deliver someone their pizza in under 30 minutes without speeding and driving like a mad man. But Domino's, I've got an idea for your next Guarantee--your pizza is cooked all the way through or the driver will let you punch him in the sack. Because maybe it's just me, but the last 10 pizzas I've ordered from Domino's have been frozen in the middle. Why do I keep ordering it then, you might be asking? For the chicken kickers, of course. Those things are delicious.
•The Big King
This is basically the fast food equivalent of the Armageddon/Deep Impact [or, if you prefer, the "Real Ghostbusters"/"Ghostbusters"] phenomenon, whereby success begets close imitation in the hopes of some sort of collateral success. Splash success, if you will. However, in the case of the Big King's imitation of the Big Mac, the burger wasn't released immediately following the original, leaving no doubt as to which is the classic and which the knock-off. It would be as if Armageddon starring Bruce Willis came out, a few years passed, and then, without much fanfare, Armageddon starring Pierce Brosnan comes out and fails dismally. You can't just come out with a nearly identical product, replace an abbreviation for the opposition's restaurant with something analogous ("Mac" to "King") and expect anybody to be impressed. Memo to Burger King: Air Jordans are great selling shoes. Air Giordans... not so much.
•Jack In The Box Deaths
What's the best way to land on this list? By having your food directly cause someone's death! Let's take you back to January of 1993. If you were a Jack in the Box customer (meaning you were probably in California or select areas of Texas, Arizona or Washington), you were at risk of being exposed to E. Coli!
600 people got sick that January, FOUR OF WHOM DIED. All thanks to deliciously tainted meat that was undercooked. Yumm! Funny thing is, the fact that people DIED didn't even close the damn place. Last time I was in LA (this summer) Jack in the Box was still THE place to get drive thru late night. I guess cheap prices and a fast drive thru supersede the fact that their burgers KILL PEOPLE.
•Horrible Timing for Krispy Kreme
Around the turn of the century, two huge and swirling storms of consumer consciousness collided. The Krispy Kreme donut craze was one of those storms, and franchises opened across the country at a startling rate -- yet still not quickly enough to meet demand. People lined up for hours for a dozen of the pastries that, it was said, practically dissolved in your mouth when you bit them, so tender and delectable they were. Then, in direct and crippling contrast to the Krispy Kreme mania, like a tank in the night, came the Atkins diet. I take back my "two storms" analogy. This was more like a shanty (Krispy Kreme) versus a bulldozer (Atkins). With the speed Krispy Kreme had been expanding, they probably would have owned at least a few sports stadiums -- if not something a lot bigger, like a small state or a month of the year -- had they simply broken out of North Carolina ten or twenty years earlier. As it stands, they've been all but eliminated in many markets by the sudden contraction of the amount of people willing to put themselves through eating donuts. Apparently, according to the Atkins diet, donuts are bad for you. Who knew?
•Classy Burger King
In 1993, while Jack in the Box was busy getting lethal, Burger King was trying to get classy. At select locations, after 4 PM, BK laid out table cloths and delivered customer's orders to their table (which had baskets of popcorn waiting for them so they could graze before their beef arrived).
They even started offering "Dinner Baskets" that included a Whopper Dinner Basket, a Shrimp Dinner Basket and, in select New England locations, a Fried clam Dinner Basket. Mmm, fast food clams! My favorite.
While the idea isn't a horrible one (and something that's done successfully in a lot of smaller chains), Burger King is the most fickle of all the chains (they have the longest list of failed sandwiches, for instance). The idea was abandoned a year after use. Now you have to bring your OWN damn food to your table on a DIRTY TRAY! For shame.
•Apparently Beef Tallow is Frowned Upon in India
It's amazing how much room for error McDonald's has. There's something to be said for doing it first. Of course, the fact that McDonald's was the first mega fast food chain didn't pacify either the Hindus -- who believe the cow to be sacred, and who occasionally lynch people who are found eating them -- or the vegetarians who filed suit when it was discovered that the company had been using rendered cow fat in small quantities to flavor their french fries. A number of stores were vandalized across the subcontinent, and McDonald's will be hard pressed to ever fully recover the goodwill lost in the world's largest democracy. It could have been worse, though. Imagine the middle-eastern reaction if McDonald's had been caught using pork fat. Would you like fries with that sequence of explosions?
•The Taco Bell Bell Beefer
As a kid, my parents had some friends who had a brat for a kid. He only liked two things to eat--crackers and cheese and hamburgers. This of course made it hard for him to go out for dinner. I remember going to a Chinese restaurant once and he demanded a non-menu item called a "Dragon Burger," which was basically a burger with some soy sauce. How adventurous of him!
Well, our families never went out to Taco Bell together, but if we had I imagine he'd ask for the Bell Beefer. As Wikipedia describes it, the Bell Beefer is a "taco like Hamburger with a hamburger bun, taco meat, cheese, tomato, and lettuce." So basically, a loose-meat hamburger with some "spices." This was the one Taco Bell menu item for the customer so timid he couldn't find anything on T-Bell's already white-washed menu.
The company faded out the menu item and good thing at that since their frickin' slogan is, as one former Bell Beefer fan points out, "think outside the bun."
•McDonald's Hula Burger
What do you do when the head honcho has a terrible idea that you know will fail but he insist will be great? You do what the head honco says and then watch it fail. Enter McDonald's Hula Burger! Ray Kroc (the guy who has a picture in every McDonald's... and also former owner of the company) noticed that his company was taking a dip in sales on Fridays (thanks to Catholics and their stupid no meat on Friday thing, which no one follows anymore). While the logical solution to this problem would be to push a fried fish sandwich (which they later would) like EVERY other restaurant in a Catholic enclave does (Friday Night Fish Fry, w00t), Kroc first had the idea, in the 1950s, to serve a the Hula Burger... a fried pineapple slice with cheese, pickles and a bun! Mmm mm good!
Why pineapple? Why hula? Why Hawaiian? No one knows. It was the '50s. Don Ho was popular, I guess. Regardless, the sandwich didn't contribute to the Golden Arches' "served" tally. The shit didn't sell and was dis-con-tin-ued.