Not every fast food item has been around as long as McDonald’s Big Mac (since 1967). Relentless competition and changing customer tastes mean companies are always reinventing their menus. Some launches are hugely successful — McNuggets, introduced in 1983, are now one of the chain’s biggest sellers — but others flop big time. We rounded up the 15 biggest missteps from McDonald’s, Burger King, and other chains. Do you remember any of these fast food failures?
1. Burger King Burger Buddies
Burger King tried to replicate the success of White Castle’s sliders with its Burger Bundles (later reimagined as Burger Buddies), which hit the menu in the late ’80s. The Bundles were a package of three sliders, while the Buddies were sold in pairs. But the tiny burger patties tended to slip through the broiler, which was one reason they were eventually discontinued. The sliders were resurrected again in 2008, this time as BK Burger Shots, but they are no longer available.
Next: Fast food and fish rarely go together.
2. Taco Bell Seafood Salad
More proof that fast food and seafood rarely belong together: Taco Bell’s Seafood Salad. Appearing on Taco Bell’s menu in the ’80s, this monstrosity featured shrimp, whitefish, and snow crab and was clearly positioned as a better-tasting alternative to the Filet-o-Fish. But diners in the mood for a burrito or taco said “no thanks,” and the ill-advised offering was scuttled.
Next: This drink failed, but the Unicorn Frappuccino succeeded somehow.
3. Starbucks Chantico
Starbucks is always introducing twists on sugary, caffeinated drinks. While some are hits (hello, pumpkin spice latte) others don’t have staying power. Enter the Chantico. This “drinkable dessert” was supposed to be like sipping “a melted truffle,” a Starbucks exec said when it appeared on the coffee chain’s menu in 2005. But its lukewarm reception caused Starbucks to ax it by 2006.
Next: Bigger isn’t always better.
4. Pizza Hut Bigfoot
Hardee’s and Subway aren’t the only chains that tried to get into the business of selling food by the foot. The Pizza Hut Big Foot was a short-lived menu item in the early and mid-’90s. The massive, 12-by-24-inch pie was aimed at party hosts looking for a cheap and easy way to feed guests. It’s not clear when it was discontinued, but it’s definitely no longer available.
Next: Diners want their sandwiches preassembled.
A move to cut down on packaging killed the McDLT, a sandwich with two sides: a warm bottom bun and burger patty and cool top bun with lettuce and tomato. It showed up on McDonald’s menus in the ’80s, delivered in a specially designed, side-by-side Styrofoam container. Customers then assembled the two sandwich halves themselves, explained Serious Eats.
When McDonald’s ditched foam burger boxes in 1990, the McDLT had to go because there was no way to serve the two halves in a paper wrapper. It was rebranded the Big & Tasty, which was also retired.
Next: Bacon goes with everything — except this drink.
6. Jack in the Box Bacon Milkshake
At the peak of the bacon-on-everything fad of the 2010s, Jack in the Box decided to go whole hog on the trend and add a bacon milkshake to the menu. Unfortunately, people thought the dessert — made with bacon-flavored syrup, not actual bacon — was disgusting. “[T]he result of this bacon-meets-ice cream experiment can only be described as disastrous,” said Serious Eats in its review, dubbing the shake “undrinkable.”
Next: Fast food chains need to stop messing with fish.
7. McDonald’s Fish McBites
A steady seller since the 1960s, McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish sandwich was created to appeal to customers who give up meat for Lent. But the chain’s other attempts to serve seafood haven’t been nearly as successful.
The McLobster (available periodically in New England) has been widely mocked — and then there were Fish McBites. These were like McNuggets but made with fish. Reviews were tepid at best. “They went with the name ‘Fish McBites’ because the name ‘Cat Food’ was already taken,” quipped an NPR reporter. The McBites surfaced and sank swiftly in 2013.
Next: Diners don’t visit Dairy Queen to be healthy.
8. Dairy Queen Breeze
Who doesn’t love a Dairy Queen Blizzard on a hot summer day? Well, maybe those who are trying to cut calories. To appeal to more health-conscious customers, Dairy Queen introduced the Breeze in 1990, essentially a Blizzard made with non-fat frozen yogurt. But people weren’t interested in healthy-ish food from DQ. Sales were reportedly so low that the yogurt sometimes went bad before it could be used for the treats. The Breeze lasted about 10 years before the company pulled it from the menu.
Next: McDonald’s tries to steal from its competition.
In the late ’80s, the Golden Arches tried to take on chains like Domino’s by introducing pizza. But it never caught on. The problem was the 11-minute cooking time for each pizza, which didn’t fit with McDonald’s reputation for speedy service. Plus, Pizza Hut didn’t take kindly to a burger joint muscling in on its territory. They launched a campaign to convince people the competing pizza was neither fresh nor a good deal, according to Mental Floss.
McDonald’s pizza was never widely available and quietly faded away by 2000 or so. But you can still get it at two McDonald’s locations in Ohio and West Virginia, inspiring road trips from dedicated fans.
Next: Wendy’s tries to “eat fresh.”
10. Wendy’s Frescata Sandwiches
In 2006, Wendy’s took on Subway, attempting to appeal to health-conscious diners with its new line of Frescata sandwiches. But the fancy, made-to-order sandwiches — including ingredients, such as pesto — took too long to prepare. They were pulled from the menu at the end of 2007.
Next: There’s a place for almost everything on Taco Bell’s menu — except this.
11. Taco Bell Bell Beefer
Taco Bell may encourage people to think outside the bun, but that didn’t stop the fast food chain from trying to steal some of the burger market from competitors, such as McDonald’s. From the mid-’70s through the early ’90s, Taco Bell sold a sandwich called the Bell Beefer. It was basically a sloppy Joe made with taco-seasoned beef. The sandwich was eventually phased out. But loyal fans still await its return, at least according to the “Taco Bell Please Bring Back the Bell Beefer” Facebook group.
Next: A throwback to the ’70s
12. Jack in the Box Frings
What do you get when you combine “fried” and “onion rings”? Frings, which were on Jack in the Box’s menu in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Sadly for diners who can’t decide between onion rings and fries, Frings “have gone the way of mood rings and shag carpeting,” according to the restaurant’s corporate website.
Next: McDonald’s can’t make junk food healthy.
13. McLean Deluxe
Many fast food failures involve attempts to make junk food slightly healthier, and consumers stubbornly refuse to bite. Take McDonald’s McLean Deluxe. Debuting in 1991 at the height of the low-fat craze, this burger was a huge flop. The sandwich was dry and tasteless, and the use of carrageenan as a binder earned it a reputation as a “seaweed burger.” By 1993, it made up less than 2% of total sales at McDonald’s. Soon, it was gone altogether.
Next: “Footlong” only applies to some foods.
14. Hardee’s Footlong Cheeseburger
You can get a foot-long sandwich at Subway, so why not a foot-long cheeseburger? Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. thought this in 2010, so it introduced a sandwich made with three patties on sub roll. The burger aligned with Hardee’s other “dude foods,” such as the 1,400-calorie Monster Burger. The item was test-marketed in California and Indiana restaurants. But it has since been eclipsed by other horrifying menu innovations, such as a 2015 burger topped with hot dogs and potato chips (also no longer available).
Next: No one needed this many eggs.
15. Burger King Enormous Omelet Sandwich
Clearly the brainchild of a marketing team that embraces the “bigger is always better” concept, the Burger King Enormous Omelet Sandwich was piled high with multiple layers of eggs plus sausage, bacon, and cheese, all on a toasted bun. The gargantuan 730-calorie sandwich raised eyebrows when it debuted in 2005. It was eventually phased out in the U.S., but the mammoth breakfast item is still on the menu in Canada.