Fast-food brands are always looking for new and creative menu items and promotions to generate sales and social media buzz.
Sometimes there are huge successes, like McDonald’s Happy Meals and Burger King’s Whopper, but others don’t work out as well, or at all.
Here are the all-time fast food winners and losers, via the restaurant trade news publication Restaurant News.
Fast-Food Winners of All Time
Here are some of the most popular fast-food menu items of all time.
Subway’s $5 footlong:
Who doesn’t love a good promotion and a sub? Introduced in 2008, Subway began offering any footlong sandwich for just $5.
Along with an incredibly catchy jingle, this promotion brought in $3.8 billion in revenue in its first year.
Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte:
Nothing quite says fall like a pumpkin-flavored latte. As early as August, Starbucks rolls out this fan-favorite item in either hot or iced forms – and sometimes both.
Chick-fil-A Waffle Fries:
While Chick-fil-A is known for great chicken sandwiches, its waffle fries are a top-selling side item and stand out due to their unique shape.
Taking the standard cheeseburger to the next level, Wendy’s released the Baconator, which includes two patties, cheese, bacon, and sauces.
Dairy Queen Blizzard:
Blizzards are made with soft-serve ice cream and a variety of mix-ins. Flavors include Chocolate Chip Dough, Turtle Pecan Cluster, Choco Brownie Extreme, Mint Brownie, and Oreo Cookie.
There are some unfortunate menu innovations that fast-food restaurants – and their customers – would like to forget.
Even the Golden Arches has McDuds every now and then. For example, among McDonald’s many failures are the McHotDog, Hula Burger, and McAfrika menu items.
Burger King also had some royal flops too, such as the Flame Broiled Meatloaf Sandwich, Enormous Omelette Sandwich and Bacon Sundae.
Chipotle got some social media hate for its queso cheese dip.
KFC’s Double Down sandwich was a turn-off due to its potential health risks, particularly cholesterol concerns (it included bacon, cheese, and sauce covered by fried chicken). Starbucks also failed to gain traction with its Chantico drink, which blended steamed cocoa butter and whole milk.
Revamping and Relaunching
Menu items and promotions come and go in the fast-food world.
One recent raging success has been Burger King’s “You Rule” campaign. Its revamped “Have it Your Way” jingle was launched to attract a younger audience.
While many people find the new version annoying, the tune has gone viral on social media. There was even a karaoke version of the updated “Whopper Whopper” tune offered on social media for the 2023 Super Bowl.
No matter the success or failure of these products, one thing has always driven innovation in the fast-food industry: customer demand.
Fast-food franchises continually pivot and evolve to keep customers coming back for more.
Will these new offerings stand the test of time or be added to the list of fast-food flops? The jury is still out on that one.