The Big Mac, The McGriddle, McCafe coffee, The Egg McMuffin… These are just a few of the McDonald menu items that have been hugely successful. One can’t imagine walking into a McDonald’s and not seeing these, and many other, items on the menu. But, everything that comes out of the Mickey D’s kitchen hasn’t always been a hit with customers. Like Kramer, who will only eat fruit from the local grocer (and not those big box grocery stores), McDonald’s customers also know what they like and what they don’t. And here are a few that didn’t work out the way the folks at corporate had hoped. Let us introduce you to the Top 10 McDonald’s Menu Item Fails.
10. The Hula Burger
What is the Hula Burger you ask? Well, unless you found your way into a McDonald’s in the 1960’s this is one item that you have never seen on the menu. The idea was simple. McDoanld’s franchise owner – the man himself – Ray Kroc noticed that, in heavily Catholic areas, sales were taking a bit of a hit (as many Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays). So, a meatless burger option was needed. Remember, this was many decades before the “Beyond Meat” phenomenon that has swept the industry over the last few years. Kroc’s idea was based on a cheeseburger, replacing the meat patty with a grilled pineapple ring. Now, if you are one of those people that believes pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza, imagine pineapple and cheese between two hamburger buns. It was probably as unappetizing as it sounds and you are probably not surprised to hear it did not last long on the restaurant’s menu. McDonald’s redeemed themselves though, with the release of another meatless option, the filet-o-fish in 1965, that became a nice success for the chain. This one was the brainchild of Lou Groen – a McDonald’s franchise owner from Cincinnati.
9. The McHotDog
If you have always wondered why McDonald’s never sold hotdogs, well we can tell you that they did – but only for a short time in the 1990s. However, by that time, the theory goes that people had become so accustomed to the McDonald’s menu and burgers that the MchotDog was just never able to catch on and after a little while they took it off the menu. Would a hot dog have done well at Mcdonald’s had the company introduced it much earlier in the life of the restaurant? Maybe, but that is obviously something that we will never know for sure. What we do know for sure though, is that the reason it never made it onto the menu earlier was because of Ray Kroc himself. The man who made McDonald’s the restaurant giant it is today made it clear that hot dogs would never be sold at Mickey D’s. Kroc was disgusted by the idea of hot dogs and did not want them anywhere near his burger joints. But Kroc died in 1984 and eventually the company decided, in the 1990s, that it was time to give the dog a try. Which they did. It didn’t work. And Kroc can now look down on the legacy he created and say “I told you so”
This is one that a lot of people probably remember. The McDLT was a big item for McDonald’s and received a huge marketing push when it was released in the 1980s. And really there was nothing wrong with the item itself. It was a hamburger with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and pickles. Pretty simple and nothing weird or crazy. And customers liked it for the most part as well. So, why did this one fail? Well, it was actually the packaging that led to the McDLT’s demise. You see, the “new idea/concept” for the McDLT was to have large styrofoam containers with two separate compartments. On one side would be the meat and the bun and the lettuce, tomato, cheese and pickle would be in the other compartment. This would keep the cool items cool and the hot items hot until you opened up the container and put them together just before eating it. It’s a pretty smart idea, except for the “styrofoam” part. Now, while this might not have been a big deal in the 1980s, by the 90s people were much more aware, and concerned with the state of the environment and styrofoam was well known to be a “not-very-green” product. In the end it was environmental activism that caused McDonald’s to back away from this wasteful packaging and with it went the McDLT itself. You would think they could have come up with another packaging solution to keep the McDLT on the menu. But they either couldn’t find one, or didn’t want to and instead they just scrapped the whole burger. Maybe, with all the new greener packaging materials available today the McDLT will make a comeback at some point? We know there are some mega-fans of this one who are keeping their fingers crossed that this is the case.
7. The Arch Deluxe
Entering the 1990s McDonald’s was riding a high of big success among kids and families. And while this was great, the company really wanted to be taken more seriously as a restaurant and attract more adults (the ones without kids begging them to go). And what they came up with was the Arch Deluxe. Even the name sounds more adult and classy. It’s a deluxe burger folks (and no “childish” “Mc” before the name either). The Arch Deluxe was a burger with peppered-bacon and cheese on a potato-flour bun. Now, doesn’t that sound serious and mature? It might also sound pretty good – and maybe it was. The problem with this one – as with some other McDonald’s menu item fails – had to do with factors other than the food item itself. In this case, the marketing. They called the Arch Deluxe the “burger with the grown up taste” and in the commercials they had their mascot, Ronald McDonald, playing sophisticated and adult sports like golf and pool. But maybe the biggest “what were they thinking” aspect of the campaign was that in the ads they also showed kids being disgusted by the burger. We are sure McDonald’s has some very smart people working on their marketing and ad campaigns, but if we were to offer one piece of unsolicited advice… We think a pretty good rule of thumb for any food company is probably to never make a commercial that shows anyone (child or adult) being grossed out by your food. Just a thought!
In the late 1980s and early 90s this was something you could actually say out loud, “Man, I have a real craving for spaghetti. Let’s go to McDonald’s!” Yup, back only three decades ago, the home of the Big Mac, the chain famous for their fantastic french fries, decided that they were going to start serving pasta. And while the one most people might remember is the spaghetti and meatballs, one shouldn’t forget that the Golden Arches also tried serving up fettuccine alfredo and lasagna. This ridiculous idea came about, as they often do in the fast food world, in an attempt to compete with other players in the market. In this case it was the Italian and Pizza joints like Dominoes and Pizza Hut. And while competition, innovation and out of the box thinking are all qualities that can lead to huge successes. They can also lead to big failures as well. Which is exactly what happened with the McSpaghetti experiment. Surprise, surprise! Turns out people didn’t want to go to McDonald’s to get a carton of spaghetti and meatballs. At least not in America. If you want McSpaghetti you can still find it on the McDonald’s menu in the Philippines. There are those of you who probably also remember the McPizza. This was also part of the “Italian” craze McDonald’s went through with the goal of eating into Dominoes and Pizza Hut’s business. However, like the spaghetti and the fettuccine and the lasagna, their go at pizza was also short lived.
5. Onion Nuggets
You might be surprised to know that Onion Nuggets were a menu item introduced in the 1970s – before there was ever such a thing as a Chicken McNugget. However, while one “nugget” has gone on to fame and fortune, it’s onion predecessor found itself out of a job soon after its introduction. So, what exactly were onion nuggets? Well, they were chunks of onions, breaded and fried – and served with a sauce for dipping. They basically sound like onion rings but in chunky nugget form, which does make us a little surprised they weren’t more successful. Because everyone loves onion rings – when a restaurant menu offers you either fries or onion rings with your meal – there are plenty of folks who will choose onion rings (even though there is usually a slight additional cost). Maybe it was the nugget aspect of it that didn’t work? Why didn’t they at least try doing them in rings (and changing the name obviously)? We may never know for sure. But while the 1970s saw a nugget fail at McDonald’s, the next decade started off with a bang as the chain introduced the ever-popular Chicken McNuggets in 1980.
4. McLean Deluxe
While McDonald’s has never been viewed as a health-food restaurant, the chain has had to adjust over the years based on trends and the public’s changing eating habits. Of course they will never get rid of their french fries or the Big Mac, but over the last few decades, as people have been trying to eat healthier, McDonald’s has tried to find items to offer the more health-conscious consumers. One of those tries came in 1991 with the introduction of the McLean Deluxe. As with the Arch Deluxe, the chain was obviously trying to sound more sophisticated with this offering and appeal to the adult demographic – and even more specifically the adult demo looking to eat less fat – which usually would mean avoiding burger’s altogether. But with the McLean Deluxe, McDonald’s was offering those customers a burger that was 91% fat free (why they felt they needed to tie it into the year, 1991, we’re not sure). But the problem people had with this menu item wasn’t that corny aspect of their marketing, it was with the burger itself. It really just didn’t taste very good. These days there are some great low-meat and no-meat burger alternatives out there, but back in 1991 the way McDonald’s was able to reduce the fat so much was by replacing the fat content in the patty with water and seaweed. Seaweed is great with sushi, but no one should be shocked to hear it isn’t great in a burger.
3. McGratin Croquette
Normally you can tell by the name of the item what it is at least. But if we asked 100 people who had never heard of the McGratin Croquette, what they thought it was, we are pretty sure we wouldn’t get one correct answer. We should also start by saying that this item was never released in North America. Instead this was a concoction that McDonald’s made especially for their customers in Japan. So, what is it exactly? Well, the McGratin Croquette brought together macaroni, mashed potatoes and shrimp into a patty of sorts that was then deep fried and put on a bun with some cabbage. No, that isn’t a typo. McDonald’s actually came up with this idea, put it through all of their testing protocols and decided it should become an item on their menu in Japan. Well, as weird as it sounds to us North Americans (although, we can admit to being pretty curious about this one and would have loved to have tried it – just once), obviously the Japanese didn’t think it sounded much better. It didn’t last long on the menu in the land of the rising sun. The failure of the McGratin Croquette has been attributed to both the taste as well as the poor marketing of it in Japan.
You probably don’t need any other information besides the name, McAfrika, to know why this cringe-worthy menu offering failed. How the name got past all the checks and corporate red tape at McDonald’s headquarters is a mystery. And we assume someone got fired, and fired hard, for this one. The McAfrika was a beef and veggie pita sandwich. Which doesn’t really sound like it’s in McDonald’s wheel house, but doesn’t sound bad either. However, what does sound bad is selling it in McDonald’s in Norway (a very wealthy country) and calling it the McAfrika when many countries in Southern Africa were experiencing a massive famine at the time! And this was less than 20 years ago, in 2002. You would think that corporations would be a little wiser to the global marketplace and more sensitive to such obvious issues. But McDonald’s wasn’t and after some major backlash from the public, McDonald’s issued an apology and the McAfrika was no more. The chain, in a classic attempt at corporate face-saving, also set up donation boxes in support of charities fighting famine in Africa.
The 1980s and 90s saw Mcdonald’s introduce a lot of new menu items. And while many were quite successful and still available to this day, there were plenty of failures, including the McLobster. Or at least it was a partial failure – which we will explain in a bit. First off the McLobster itself. This was McDoanld’s version of a lobster roll with lettuce and lobster in a bun with “lobster sauce.” While it might have tasted okay, it was priced at $5.99 (this is back in 1993 when a Bic Mac would only set you back just a little over $2 bucks) and generally there was quite a bit more lettuce than lobster on the bun – further diminishing the value of paying more than double the price of a delicious Big Mac. However, while it failed on a national level the McLobster didn’t disappear completely. The item is still available in parts of New England and in Eastern Canada (two areas famous for their lobster). And a few years back McDonald’s expanded the McLobster all across Canada for a limited time during their Great Canadian Taste Adventure summer promotion.