With summer nearly here, fast-food chains have been kicking menu innovation into high gear. In the past four weeks (or so) alone: McDonald’s debuted a new pretzel-flavored McFlurry, Chipotle added Pollo Asado to its menu, Chick-fil-A launched its limited-time Cloudberry Sunjoy drink, and Starbucks announced a new Chocolate Cream Cold Brew.
But not all product launches are created equal, and the past month or two has seen just as many flops as successes in the quick-service industry. Here’s a look at four of the biggest “swing-and-a-miss” fast-food launches, according to customers.
And don’t miss 5 Outdated Burger Chains Attempting to Make a Comeback.
Arby’s new Wagyu Steakhouse Burger debuted on Monday, pitched to consumers as a higher quality alternative to “mediocre fast-food burgers.” In its 58 years of business, Arby’s has never attempted a burger before, so the release of the Wagyu Steakhouse was a historical moment for the brand.
The premium burger’s patty is 52% American Wagyu and 48% ground beef, and is cooked using a Sous Vide technique, giving it a “slightly pink center.”
Early reviews have taken issue with the patty, however, with customers complaining of an “odd” and slimy texture. The Washington Post described the beef as “gummy” and “too compact,” while The Takeout found that the Wagyu lacked the promised pink interior.
Issues with the beef’s consistency and color may be due to the sous vide cooking technique, which involves cooking the beef at a controlled temperature. As the washington post points out, Arby’s kitchens aren’t equipped with grills, so the much-hyped sous vide preparation is really more of a workaround than anything else—and a disappointing one at that!
Taco Bell brought back its fan-favorite Mexican Pizza earlier this month following a two-year hiatus, and hype for the re-release couldn’t have been greater. Taco Bell fans have been demanding Mexican Pizza’s return almost non-stop since its retirement, flooding the “Save The Mexican Pizza” Change.org petition with over 170 thousand signatures and heckling Taco Bell on Twitter. Along the way, celebrities like Doja Cat and Dolly Parton have lent their support to the cause.
But when the fan-favorite item finally returned on May 19, it wasn’t exactly how fans remembered it. Many found the crust to be different: not as savory or flaky as it used to be, but soggy and lacking crunch.
A reviewer for The Street observed that the new shell has “less of the lip-smacking flavor of the original” and is “a bit more flour heavy.” A disappointing conclusion to a two-year wait, but them’s the beans.
For the release of its Whopper Melt line, Burger King took its cue from Taco Bell’s Chicken Taco campaign, inviting customers to debate whether the Whopper Melt—a handheld sandwich—was “really a Whopper.”
The Whopper Melt is served on toast and straddles the line between a patty melt and a classic BK Whopper—so in theory, there’s plenty of room for debate as to its correct categorization.
But the gimmick backfired, with many customers feeling that the Whopper Melt was smaller than marketed and had been falsely advertised as equal in size to a standard Whopper.
There were also complaints about the “toast”: customers shared Pictures of Whopper Melts served on what looks like straight-out-of-the-bag Wonder Bread, and others took issue with the bread’s slice size and flavor (which The Washington Post found to be too sweet). Overall, the Whopper Melt failed to melt customers’ hearts.
Almost three years after the debut of its Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Popeyes surprised fans with an update of the classic menu item: the new Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich. The limited-time release offers a spicy take on the chain’s most famous sandwich, bringing the same crispy chicken filet customers love but coating it with a creamy herb buttermilk ranch and buffalo sauce.
Three weeks into its release, customers are still divided on the new sandwich. Some have given it high praise, calling it”delicious,” “fire emojii” et un good choice for lunch.” But others have pointed out that the LTO is little more than a sauce swap—a lazy re-release of the standard sandwich, dressed up with a few tablespoons of Buffalo Ranch.
In fact, according to some, the new sandwich is indistinguishable from Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Thrillist’s Janae Price offered a similar review, admitting that, if asked to differentiate between the two sandwiches in a blindfold taste test, she would not be able to.
Owen Duff is a freelance journalist based in Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s. Read more