Is there any fast food restaurant that has cemented itself in pop culture more than McDonald’s? The restaurant itself has almost come to represent the entire fast food industry as a whole. When you’re on a road trip and you need something to fill you up fast? McDonald’s. When you’re stumbling home from a party and you’ve had too much to drink? McDonald’s. Even when you want a sweet, cold treat on a hot summer day (McFlurries anyone?), it’s McDonald’s. However, despite its popularity and longevity, McDonald’s hasn’t always had the best ideas. Even though the Big Mac, the Filet-o-fish, and the McChicken have endured, there have been other McDonald’s menu items that were not so popular with the general public. It makes perfect sense, though. You can’t run a huge fast food empire for this many decades and not hit a few speed bumps along the way. But hey, at least McDonald’s was trying their hardest with these discontinued menu items. Let it never be said that McDonald’s didn’t give it their all with new ideas. After all, if you want to convince people to order what you’re selling, you’ve got to have the confidence to get behind it. While all of these McDonald’s menu items were eventually scrapped, many of them live on in people’s memories. Enough so that there are still people out there who are longing for a McHotDog or an Arch Deluxe. Sadly for them, these will most likely never make a return. These are the top ten McDonald’s menu items that didn’t last.
Picture this: You walk into a McDonald’s with your friends. Some of you order burgers, a couple of you order nuggets, you all obviously order fries. Then there’s your one weird friend. He or she is always doing something very strange that you don’t quite understand. They walk up to the counter, and they order… Spaghetti. You might think to yourself, “my friend is a crazy person,” but maybe they’re just remembering that brief moment in time when you really could get spaghetti at McDonald’s. As far as McDonald’s menu items go, spaghetti was a pretty weird choice. Partly because people definitely were not going to McDonald’s to get Italian food, let alone one of the most basic Italian foods out there. Anyone can make spaghetti at home, but they can’t recreate the delicious taste of McDonald’s fries or Mac sauce. McSpaghetti was first introduced in the 1970s, along with some other Italian inspired dishes, in an attempt by McDonald’s to break into the fancy dining world. Obviously, the idea did not take, and the dishes were quickly discontinued. However, McSpaghetti is still available in the Philippines, where it is a surprisingly popular menu item. You can also get spaghetti and other pasta dishes at the world’s largest McDonald’s location in Orlando, Florida. Although it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to make the trip just to see what McDonald’s does with pasta.
Milk and cookies, ketchup and mustard, burgers and hot dogs. These are all things that just go together. So why was the McHotDog one of the least successful McDonald’s menu items? It seems like a completely logical choice. If McDonald’s was trying to evoke the memories of a backyard barbecue, what better way to do it than to offer hot dogs in addition to their famous burgers? Well, as it turns out, a hot dog from McDonald’s just doesn’t look as appetizing as their burgers did. Looking at the photo above it’s not hard to see why. A McDonald’s burger has a very specific color palette. The contrast of that yellow cheese against the brown patty makes you hungry. It triggers a sense memory of your mind of biting into a fresh quarter pounder. When you look at the pale, boiled, hot dog, just lying in the oversized bun, all you can think is that you’d still rather have that burger. Even McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc thought hot dogs were a bad idea. He always opposed selling them in his restaurants, saying that there was basically no way of knowing what went into making one. While it was a noble attempt, this menu item was not meant to last. Hot dogs have been offered in a number of locations and markets over the years, but they have never been popular enough to last.
You know you’re really getting into some bad ideas when the food you’re trying to copy is a frozen food item that is routinely mocked for its lack of quality. That’s what happened when McStuffins were introduced as one of the newest and strangest McDonald’s menu items. What were McStuffins exactly? Well, they were essentially hot pockets, except they were sold at McDonald’s. These weirdly named pocket sandwiches were made by stuffing French bread with fillings like pepperoni and cheese or barbecue chicken. Introduced in 1993, this breathtakingly strange menu item never made it past the one year mark because it was so ridiculously unpopular. They didn’t even look good in the commercials, and that’s supposed to be the easy part of selling a fast food item. You know you’ve got a true failure on your hand when even that can’t be accomplished. By now, you may be starting to see a pattern: when McDonald’s strays too far from its formula of burgers and fries, it usually ends up with a giant mess on its hands. Even though it promised to bake its bread fresh all day for the McStuffins, McDonald’s seriously overestimated people’s desire for a stuffed sandwich. The advertising campaign for the McStuffins involved not telling anyone about this hot, new menu item. Apparently, no one cared anyway.
7. The Triple Double Burger
No, this is not what Ice Cube got when he was having a good day. It was actually one of the more extravagant McDonald’s menu items to come out of the mid 90’s. What is a triple-double burger? Besides a menu item that has way too many syllables, it was three patties served with lettuce, tomato, American and Monterey Jack cheese on a long, McRib style bun. Yeah, this already sounds like way too much to handle, but trust us, it gets worse. The Triple double also went by the name “the superhero burger” because it was tied into another disaster from the mid 90’s: Batman Forever. Yes, this ridiculous sandwich was used to cross-promote an even more ridiculous movie. The Triple double was also named after several different athletes in separate markets, but it wasn’t really enough to cover up the fact that this was just a weird burger. Riddle me this, Batman: why was it even called the “Triple Double?” Because of the three patties and the two kinds of cheese? We guess so, but that doesn’t really make it a better name. Also, we doubt that anyone who wears the bat suit would even dare to touch this thing. It was just too much for anyone.
6. The McLean Deluxe
McDonald’s has done its best to appeal to the health-conscious consumer by introducing salad after salad. Reportedly, some of these healthier McDonald’s menu items are actually pretty tasty, and there’s no harm in trying to sell something that’s better for people than a big, fat burger and fries. However, the McLean Deluxe was not the way to accomplish this goal. This burger, introduced in 1991, was a low-fat option for people who were trying to lose weight but still wanted to eat at McDonald’s. The burger was made using 91% lean ground beef, and a special, secret ingredient: carrageenan. Carrageenan is a food additive derived from seaweed that is used throughout the food industry for its stabilizing effects. However, it’s not the most appealing ingredient, especially when it comes to adding it to a burger. The McLean Deluxe may have had lofty goals, but it had a pretty terrible way of achieving them. The ads for the beef and seaweed additive burger featured professional football players (all of them number 91) raving about how the burger was “100% delicious.” It was also a 100% failure, and was discontinued in 1996. It didn’t help that the burger had a weird, almost gelatinous appearance to it, that didn’t exactly scream “this is meat.”
5. Onion Nuggets
Alright, now a lot of these McDonald’s menu items have been strange, bad, or completely unappetizing options. This one though, seems like it really could have gone the distance if they had just stuck with it. McDonald’s introduced its onion nuggets all the way back in 1980 to coincide with the release of another discontinued menu item: the chopped beefsteak sandwich. The items were part of McDonald’s push into having a dinner menu that was only available after 4:00PM. Ooh la la, Mickey D’s. The onion nuggets were exactly what you’d expect them to be: chunks of onion that were breaded and deep fried. Wait a minute, that sounds delicious! What went wrong? Well, apparently at the time neither the onion nuggets nor the beefsteak sandwich were big hits. This was actually rather unfortunate, as both McDonald’s menu items have been described as being very tasty by people who were lucky enough to sample them almost 40 years ago. Alas, timing is everything, and the world obviously just wasn’t ready for the onion nuggets. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t make a comeback though! Imagine if these were on the dollar menu. Wouldn’t you and your friends at least want to try them? Come on McDonald’s give the onion nuggets another chance!
4. Arch Deluxe
Kids love McDonald’s. This has always been true, and it was especially true in the 90’s when Happy Meal toys reigned supreme and cheeseburgers could be used as an incentive to behave yourself at grandma’s house. However, McDonald’s soon saw that demographics were shifting, and the marketplace was getting older. How would they respond to these changes? By introducing a more adult sandwich in the Arch Deluxe. The year was 1996, and McDonald’s introduced this burger, which utilized fancy ingredients like peppered bacon and a secret mustard based sauce to try and appeal to people looking for something a little more mature from the golden arches. There was a massive marketing push behind the sandwich, as McDonald’s really wanted to appeal to an older, fancier set of customers. Unfortunately, the Arch Deluxe failed to take off with consumers due to its massive calorie count and unreasonable price. McDonald’s reportedly poured over $300 million into marketing, researching, and developing the Arch Deluxe, making it one of the biggest flops in fast food history. Well hey, at least McDonald’s got a record out of the whole thing. They also managed to utilize some of that same research in developing their salads in 2003. So, do we just call that breaking even?
3. Mighty Wings
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “McDonald’s?” Did you say chicken wings? Of course you didn’t, because that would be insane. However, the ever popular chicken wing once found a home at McDonald’s where it was known as the Mighty Wing. Why it was considered mighty, we’re not really sure. Chicken’s wings are famously un-mighty. McDonald’s Mighty Wings were introduced in 2013 when McDonald’s executives realized that, “hey people seem to really like chicken wings.” Well, they weren’t wrong exactly, but they sort of missed the point. People like chicken wings from restaurants that specialize in serving chicken wings. No one was flocking to McDonald’s and lamenting the fact that they didn’t serve everyone’s favorite bar food. Mighty Wings were heavily breaded, and were reportedly very crunchy and spicy. It was that second point that really turned people off of the wings. Customers reported that the Mighty Wings might have had too much might, and were too spicy for their palettes. The wings were also overpriced, which added to their unpopularity. McDonald’s was left holding the bag on this one, and the bag contained somewhere near 10 million pounds of unsold chicken wings.
2. The McDLT
The McDLT (which stood for McDonald’s Lettuce and Tomato) was a pretty novel idea when it was introduced in 1984. Apparently, people really had a problem with the vegetables on their burger getting all hot and gross. What was the solution to this obstacle to taste plaguing the nation? The McDLT. The burger was sold in a styrofoam container that had two compartments. One of those compartments contained the bottom bun and the burger, while the other one held the top bun, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and condiments. That way, when you purchased the burger, all of your veggies would still be cool and fresh. If you’ve been paying attention then you probably already spotted a couple of problems with the McDLT. First of all, the giant styrofoam box that housed the burger and toppings was seen as environmentally unfriendly. Even in the Reagan years, people recognized an environmental disaster when they saw one. The other problem was that the cheese was also kept separate from the patty, which didn’t really give it an opportunity to get all melty. The McDLT is one of the most famous McDonald’s menu items to completely crash and burn. Even a jaunty commercial starring the one and only Jason Alexander couldn’t save this silly product from the bad idea pile.
What does a burger place do when it wants to expand into the next most popular fast food arena? It introduces pizza, of course. That’s what McDonald’s did at various times throughout its history. The McPizza started its life as personal sized pies sold at interstate locations in Wisconsin, particularly around Madison and Milwaukee. Later on, the McPizza evolved into a full-on family sized pizza that was brought to your table by a McDonald’s employee. This supposedly gave you the impression that you were sitting in an actual pizza joint. We’re not really sure if it would have worked, but McDonald’s gave it a shot. Alas, as history has shown us, pizza has no place in a burger shop. The McPizza betrayed what McDonald’s was most known for: fast service. With prep times of up to 11 minutes, the McPizza became a drag on service. Some markets, particularly Canada, scaled the McPizza down to a personal size, but the McPizza was not long for this world, as it was eventually completely struck from the menu altogether. Hardcore McDonald’s pizza fans might be pleased to know that he McPizza still lives on in two franchise locations in Pomeroy, Ohio, and Spencer, West Virginia.