Not all fast foods are created the same, and not all of them can be winners. Today, the Shameless Consumer would like to look at five recent flops in fast food, more specifically between Burger King and McDonald’s. What is interesting is that a majority of items on this list were introduced at one point in either the 80’s or 90’s, and similarly flopped then.
Here’s looking forward to McDonald’s trotting out the Mighty Wings in 2034.
1. McDonald’s Fish McBites
What could be bad about fish stick bites? Seriously, I need to know. The Fish McBites were a grand slam for McDonald’s in advertising lingo. Small pieces of Alaskan Pollock, with McDonald’s being the first and only fast food chain in the country whose fish is certified as being caught using sustainable fishing methods. That’s pretty deep for such a shallow fish bite. The product itself was pretty standard, nothing terribly fantastic or awful about it. So why did it fail?
Well, the answer here is simple customer turnout, or the lack thereof. The Fish McBites were supposed to be seasonal items from the get go, but we learned after the item was pulled in 2013 that they didn’t sell anywhere near as well as McDonald’s had expected. The hope was that McBites would boost sales during the lent period of 2013, however at the end of the experiment sales remained dead flat.
2. McDonald’s Mighty Wings
The Mighty Wing should have been a slam dunk for McDonald’s, pardon my football terms, but it turned out to be one of the company’s worst marketing decisions in recent history, at least until they unveiled the new Kid’s Meal mascot. In case you didn’t leave the house late last year, the Mighty Wing was a spicy, deep fried chicken wing that most closely resembled what a McNugget probably looks like before they are deboned. As far as deep fried wings go, the Mighty Wings were actually pretty tasty. They were crispy and spicy, in all of the right places. So why did the Mighty Wings fail?
First of all, they were expensive. $3.69 for three, $5.39 for five, and $9.69 for ten. Secondly, customers complained that the wings were just too spicy for their palette. Competition with established national chains like Buffalo Wild Wings was rough, one that McDonald’s would ultimately wind up losing both in price and quality. Ultimately, McDonald’s was left with ten million pounds of wings, which the company then liquidated at a heavily discounted price the following February.
3. Burger King Satisfries
Healthy options have not been the growth driver that McDonald’s and Burger King hoped they would be. They haven’t injured either company’s bottom line, unlike Burger King’s decision in the last decade to overwhelm customers with so many unhealthy and, ultimately, failed products that Burger King’s menu now has a graveyard more populated and haunted than most Native American burial grounds. According to McDonald’s CEO just a few years back, salads accounted for two, maybe three percent of the company’s revenue. Ultimately the healthy menu is nothing more than a PR move, to save face as public opinion turns towards healthier eating.
Cut to last month when Burger King announced that only 2,500 of its over seven thousand restaurants opted to keep the Satisfries as a permanent menu item. Satisfries, or saddest fries depending on who you ask, are a crinkle cut french fry designed to absorb less oil, making them a somewhat healthier option. So why did they fail? The satisfries were more expensive, around thirty cents more than their fry counterpart, and more importantly they were different. Returning customers weren’t willing to give up their standard fries, and health-conscious patrons were unlikely to suddenly start visiting Burger King because the fries were incrementally healthier.
Satisfries are technically considered discontinued even though some locations are still selling them. Eventually those numbers will dwindle until Burger King pulls the item completely.
4. Burger King Burger Shots
I have never been particularly impressed by Burger King’s standard burgers, partly due to their lackluster construction and partly due to the terrible service offered at my local restuarants. The Burger Shots, as with their predecessor the Burger Bundle in the 80’s, came and went in the matter of months, with few people even realizing that they existed. Five years later and not a single person in the Shameless Consumer focus testing group even remember that Burger Shots were a real product.
The Burger Shots weren’t helped in their presentation. You had to pull the burgers apart, often leading to smashed and torn buns and quite a mess, nowhere near the on-the-go readiness that Burger King had promised. There were a lot of better choices on the menu for similar, or cheaper, prices. Don’t forget that this was 2009, back when the Whopper Jr. was still on the $1 menu.
5. Most of Burger King’s Menu From 2002-2010
Let’s just refer to this as CEO Greg Brenneman’s tenure, and where do you start? Then-CEO Greg Brenneman devised a plan to revive the company’s “have it your way” motto, focusing on the young male demographic and what the burger chain believed that those customers wanted. And what they wanted, apparently, was massive portions and a whole lot of cheese and bacon.
This idea led to the creation and subsequent failure of the Enormous Omelet Sandwich, the BK Back Porch Griller, the Angus Steakburger, the Angus XT, the Chef’s Choice burger, the BK Burger Shots, Shake em up fries, the BK Cravers menu and its jalapeno poppers and mozarella sticks (still sold in some stores).
Burger King’s woes would eventually lead to the company being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in 2010, leading to its primary investors dumping $3.26 billion in shares to 3G Capital of Brazil. Burger King would remain off of the stock exchange for two years.