Bringing a brand-new fast food item into the world is anything but an exact science. You can do all the planning, field testing, and marketing in the world, but at the end of the day, there’s no way to know whether a new release will sell or not until it’s unleashed on the public.
McDonald’s is the largest burger chain in America, and also the one under the most scrutiny. When they roll out a new menu item nationally, it’s usually met with a huge amount of fanfare as well as a major push to make sure that as many folks as possible are aware of it. So when an item fails, it fails spectacularly and embarrassingly.
While McDonald’s has a set menu at most of their locations, the chain is continuously testing out new items, usually in a handful of local markets, in order to try to get an idea of how they’d fare nationally. Many items, like the BBQ Chicken, Corn Dog McNuggets, and Catfish Sandwich, never made it past the local testing phase, and some items, like the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and a bratwurst, are still only on the menu regionally. Some items were tested out seasonally to see how they fared as well, never to return once the season ended. International McDonald’s are even more adventurous, with some truly outrageous creations making it to menus, also meeting with various levels of success.
So from a sandwich that caused an international outrage to a handful of misguided forays into completely different styles of cuisine, read on to learn about 12 failed menu items that McDonald’s would probably prefer you completely forgot about altogether.
1. "Super Size"
In the Mid-1990s, McDonald’s launched a campaign allowing customers to “Super-Size” their meal for an added fee. For a while, the idea sold, and customers around the world were bulking up their orders, as well as calorie counts. After the release of the documentary Super-Size Me, which exposed the dangers of McDonald’s and fast food in general, the concept of super-sizing a meal went rapidly downhill, resulting in the company pulling it from menus in 2004.
The company produced this lobster roll in a hot dog bun during the summertime, when lobster prices were relatively cheap. But "cheap" (for lobster) didn’t match up with the McDonald’s clientele. The sandwich clocked in at $6.50, customers veered away from the expensive special, and it isn't likely to return.
3. Mighty Wings
The chain bought 50 million pounds of wings with plans to leave them on the menu until supplies ran out, and were hoping to make them a permanent addition after that, but things didn’t go exactly as planned. Sales quickly petered out, and McDonald’s was left with 10 million pounds of unsold wings. The failure was attributed to price, spiciness, unattractive appearance, and lack of interest from penny-pinching customers. Many franchises resorted to selling them off at clearance prices of 60 cents per wing, and some are still struggling to get rid of their excess inventory.
4. Arch Deluxe
McDonald’s spent more money on the advertising campaign for the Arch Deluxe in 1996 than it had on any other single item in its history. Costing the company more than $150 million to market, the Arch Deluxe – a quarter-pounder on a split-top potato bun -- flopped, making the sandwich a very expensive mistake. The burger was geared toward adults, with add-ons like circular peppered bacon, leaf lettuce, Spanish onions, and a mustard-mayo sauce, and the unconventional ads included kids looking at the burger and saying things like “I don’t understand what the big deal is.” When that approach didn’t work, new TV ads featured Ronald McDonald out partying and playing pool, a certain shift from the restaurant’s family-friendly image.
Over the years, McDonald’s has released international products in different locations across the world, some to great success. However, in 2002, they released one of the worst menu items and marketing flops in the company’s history. The sandwich, the McAfrika (consisting of beef and vegetables in a pita), was released in Norway during some of the worst famines Southern Africa had ever seen. The campaign backfired so miserably that McDonald’s took the item off its menus and set up donation boxes for charities in support of famine relief in Africa.
6. The Hula Burger
The Hula Burger was actually the brainchild of McDonald's owner Ray Kroc back in the 1960s. He believed that this meatless burger, consisting of grilled pineapple with cheese on a bun, would be a perfect option for Catholics who abstain from eating meat during Lent. While the Filet-O-Fish, another Lent-inspired option, still remains popular to this day, the Hula Burger did not enjoy such long-term success.
See what other McDonalds menu items were total flops.
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