As much as you would like to believe that everything your favorite fast-food joint advertises is true, most people wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the industry has more than a few tricks that help hit max profits, no matter the cost. In order to best protect you against any nonsense, let’s shed some light on the Top 10 Dirty Tricks of Fast Food Restaurants.
10. A Race Against Time
The name “fast-food” did not just spring up out of nowhere. Everything about the fast-food dining experience is designed around efficiency and turnaround. As scientists have learned, it takes approximately 20 minutes to half an hour for your stomach to communicate to your brain that you’re full. For fast-food restaurants to ensure that customers consume as much food in that given time period, before they realize they are full and regrets begin to set in, everything about the experience is designed to ensure a speedy service. From the minute the first bite is taken, the meal and the atmosphere is designed to get you to eat as much as possible, in a very short time frame. Fast-food meals are typically constructed to be extremely easy to eat and easily digestible. Items like sandwiches are usually among the favorites because they don’t require any type of cutlery and are theoretically pretty quick to eat. An average man can take down a Big Mac in a few big bites, leaving room for fries and a soda before that biological 20-minute timer goes off. Straws help to consume more soda more quickly and the fries themselves are one of the easiest foods to finish within just a few minutes of snacking. Even the dining room itself, with its harsh lighting, irritating music, and uncomfortable chairs, is designed to make sure you eat your food and leave as quickly as possible, all the while ensuring you will be back soon enough to do it all over again. What a vicious circle.
9. Fraudulent Grill Marks
Grill marks on a fresh charred piece of meat are one of the most appetizing sights of any summer BBQ. Fast-food restaurants have learned just how appetizing those grill marks can make both burgers and chicken appear and figured out the perfect trick to give the illusion of a charred effect. To guarantee that the meat has the same uniformity expected throughout fast-food products, fast-food restaurants have learned that the grill marks can be added artificially in pre-production. Prior to the arrival of the burgers, grilled pieces of steak, or chicken at a store, they are already covered with their beautiful grill marks. This basically means that the grills at some of the most popular fast-food chains aren’t really doing anything more than simply reheating the patties! This is by far, one of the most impressive and far-reaching tricks that some fast-food corporations have instilled to guarantee success! In 2020, when consumers are still demanding a return to more wholesome and natural food sources, it’s amazing that companies continue to use these beauty techniques!
8. Fast Food Muffins: Dessert for Breakfast!
The breakfast superstar duo of the drive-thru, coffee and a muffin, has been helping workers get through early mornings for decades. For usually less than three dollars, most fast-food restaurants offer some sort of breakfast combo that features their own line of muffins. As such an innocent and healthy appearing breakfast, many have been duped by the bland appearances of fast-food muffins. Unfortunately for muffin fans, these tiny little sugary cakes might as well be covered in frosting considering how much sugar they contain! While most home recipes for muffins feature reduced sugars or alternative sweeteners like honey, fast-food muffins are packed with a lot unnecessary sugar. While most assume they are making a healthy breakfast choice, they might as well be indulging in one of the more savory breakfast options that are bound to deliver better nutrients. The sugars in the morning muffin may offer that sweet sugar rush to your mundane Monday routine, but don’t be surprised if it’s followed by an unappetizing afternoon sugar crash. It might be time to second-guess that morning bran or blueberry boost you’ve been eating all those years, thinking you were being the healthy and wise one.
7. Large and In Charge: Soda Sizing
Most restaurants carry the typical drink size offerings: small, medium, and large. But rarely do customers question exactly what these sizes refer to since every restaurant seems to have chosen their own individual definitions of soda sizes. Not only is there a difference of sizing between restaurants, but over the last 50 years, fast-food joints have continuously made their sizing larger and larger – all while keeping the same size names: small, medium, and large. For instance, McDonald’s originally only offered one size of fountain drink which was 7 fl oz. Gradually though, they introduced drink sizing, and from that moment on, the drink sizes haven’t stopped growing in volume. The small size is now over double the size of the original fountain drink container at 16 fl oz. with the medium offering 21 fl oz. and the large at an insane 30 fl oz. of soda! That’s a lot of soda! You might not think that soda is a very powerful menu item on its own, but you would be shocked to hear that the Dollar Drink Days promotion has been cited as one of the most successful McDonald’s promotions of all time. The increase in soda popularity was a win for fast-food restaurants, sugar companies, and soda companies. Just be careful and make sure it remains a win for you too, a.k.a, try not to overindulge in drinks that are way larger than they really need to be!
6. Fast Food Restaurants: A Child’s Dream and a Parent’s Nightmare
One of the most controversial tricks fast food restaurants use in order to entice people to buy is by advertising to children. Impressionable minds like theirs are unable to see the truth hidden behind large corporate ad campaigns, which makes them the perfect candidates to become lifelong clients. By using characters like Ronald McDonald, fast-food restaurants were able to create a fan base about to enter their most frivolous stage of life – young adulthood. Who doesn’t still think of the classic fold-up Burger King crowns whenever they stop for a Whopper, even if it’s been decades since they last put one on their head? It’s not only adults who’ve had their parents ignoring their pleas to stop for food when they would drive past the Golden Arches or a Burger King who can understand the pull fast-food can have on a child. I mean, what kid wouldn’t want to sit in a restaurant with their favorite cartoon characters, surrounded by games while eating sugary and salty treats? Exactly. Corporations know exactly the effect their exciting brands bring to young minds and they are not afraid to pit children against parents to sell another sandwich!
5. Fill The Fries!
Almost everyone has experienced driving away from the drive-thru after picking your order, reaching down into the bag for a salty fry, and realizing that the carton was only half full. What a rip-off. And even when ordering inside the restaurant, it seems that, by the time the fries arrive at your table, the carton is already almost half empty. Whether you’re a fry-carton-half-full or a fry-carton-half-empty kind of person, no one enjoys receiving half of what they paid for. Thanks to some ex-fast food employees, the mystery of the half-full fry carton has finally been solved! Apparently, when filling the cartons, employees are instructed to hold the cartons in a specific way that makes them appear more full than they really are! When the carton returns to its normal shape after a few minutes, the fries quickly shift around in the box leaving that extra empty space – a space that could’ve been used up by more fries! If fries are so cheap, why worry about saving on a few, well-deserved, extra french fries? Well, in terms of the millions of cartons sold, those few fries can amount to millions of dollars worth of potatoes! Plus, if someone isn’t full because their fry carton was less satisfying than it appeared, they may just make an additional purchase on the way out the door. Basically, just another reason for you to spend even more money!
4. Aromatherapy Mind Control
Have you ever been walking through the mall or minding your own business strolling down the street, when, all of a sudden, you’re randomly overwhelmed by the delicious smell of Subway’s sandwich bread? Well, that might be because Subway has one of the most recognizable scents of all the other sandwich shops, and one of the most addictive. This sub legend is not the only one to have figured out just how much of a powerful tool the nose can be in persuading potential hungry folks to open up their wallets. Many other fast-food chains came to understand just how enticing the smell of fresh-cut fries, baked goods just out of the oven, or even grilled burgers can be for customers who probably never even intended to make a purchase. This is mostly well-noticed in public places like malls, parking lots, beaches, and entertainment districts, where the aromas of different foods can quickly become completely overwhelming. Smells are often intensified in restaurants in order to help increase the customer draw, and certain items, such as bacon in the morning, are cooked at different times of day to encourage passerby customers to stop in. Now, even our noses are in on it too, playing tricks on us! Just try walking by a Cinnabon and not picking up a little something.
3. Salads: A Sneaky Solution?
The 2000s was a decade in which the fast-food industry underwent a great amount of change. As calls were being made to put out healthier and fresher options to suit more diverse diets and lifestyles, fast-food restaurants knew exactly the right low-calorie meal to add to their menu boards: salads! Whether it was a simple Ceasear or Garden side salad to swap out the salty and greasy fries, or a meal-sized salad featuring exciting proteins like chicken & steak, salads were sweeping up fast-food sales left and right! Unfortunately, these salads might not be the promised land of health after all. Considering that most people select a salad under the assumption that it’s the “healthy” and “smart” menu choice, it’s important to highlight that some of these fast-food salads are actually pretty terrible in terms of nutrition and caloric intake. Salads like the Taco Salad from Taco Bell might not seem like a surprising addition to this list of high-calorie salads, but many others like Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad and the popular customizable Chopped Salads from Subway also figure on that list, as they are all incredibly high in calories, sugar, and fat. If you ever eat a salad at a fast-food restaurant, pay close attention to the ingredients to avoid those hidden fats and sugars. Fast-food salads are still a great way to make a healthy lunch or dinner choice, just make sure to choose wisely!
2. The Hidden Land of the Value Menu
Have you ever noticed how the value menu is like the hidden treasure of fast-food chains? Not only is it filled with amazing worthy deals, typically around the one to three dollar mark, but it is also almost impossible to find without a map marking the exact spot with a giant X! Fast-food restaurants have learned to strategically place the value menu in locations people will have a hard time finding. In the forefront of the menu, are the most profitable menu items, like the recent promotional items, more expensive deluxe sandwiches, and the new, exciting specialty drinks. On the other hand, the value menu can be found somewhere in one of the bottom corners of the menu. With the arrival of digital menu boards, the value menu has become increasingly difficult to spot, as fast food restaurants continuously display advertisements and alternate the boards that show, for a dew brief seconds, the value menu. This is done strategically to confuse consumers and convince them to buy the first menu items they see and not the ones they went in looking for. The lack of pictures in value menu boards also adds to the confusion. Unless you know for sure which sandwich you’re searching for and what its price is, you’re most likely going to have a hard time finding it on the board. A McDouble may be a standard menu item, but to one who has never eaten one, it’s description sounds just like many of the other McDonald’s hamburgers. The McDouble has the greatest value and is therefore the burger most customers should want, so why is it so hard to find? Value menu boards may be for the thrifty – but you also need to be savvy!
1. Combos: An Industry Revolution
When fast-food restaurants first appeared in the middle of the 20th century, the “combo” was a futuristic concept. Typical individual items like hamburgers, fries, and bottled sodas, were sold on a per-item basis. Today, it seems that every restaurant always tries to sell you a combo. Whether it’s a classic soda and fries option, or something a little more upscale, like a side salad with a milkshake, restaurants seem to live for the combo sale! The late 1980s is when fast-food and soda company executives realized they had an extremely powerful instrument in their hands with the use of the combo. Prior to this idea, sodas only made up a very small portion of fast-food sales and were regularly supplied only bottled or canned, since they weren’t in very high demand. With the invention of the meal combo, restaurants realized that they could not only increase their own profit margins, but also the sales of both the potato and soda industries. From then on, soda sales skyrocketed. The sale of potatoes in fast-food restaurants is so immense that there was even a potato crisis caused by the pandemic due to a big reduction in demand from the restaurant industry as a whole. The Canadian government even advertised potatoes as a healthy meal option in order to help increase the country’s potato sales in 2020! Amazing how the combo, a simple-seeming idea, has such a monumental impact on three major commerce groups!