Sometimes chains strike gold with a new release; just look at Taco Bell’s now-legendary Doritos Locos, which generated more than a billion dollars in revenue for the chain within months of its release. But for every Doritos Locos, there are 10 Pizza Hut Priazzos.
In 1996, McDonald’s spent more money on the advertising campaign for this burger than it had on any other single item in its history. A quarter-pounder on a split-top potato bun with add-ons like circular peppered bacon, lettuce, Spanish onions, and a mustard-mayo sauce that the company spent more than $150 million to market, The Arch Deluxe flopped, making the sandwich a very expensive mistake.
For a period in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Wendy's expanded their salad bar into a full "Superbar" buffet. Salad, fruit, Mexican fare, and pasta were all available for a low price (usually $2.99), and it was a big success. Too much of a success, actually: it was difficult for employees to keep the buffet stocked and clean while performing their usual behind-the-counter duties, and customers would help themselves to a few too many free refills. The Superbar disappeared in 1998, and Wendy's discontinued all salad bars in 2006.
McDonald’s finally rolled out chicken wings nationally in September 2013 after years of trial and error, at the price of about a dollar per wing. Spicy, crunchy, and generally well-reviewed, the chain bought 50 million pounds of wings with plans to leave them on the menu until supplies ran out (and then make them a permanent addition after that). Things didn’t go exactly as planned, however. Sales quickly petered out, and McDonald’s was left with 10 million pounds of unsold wings.
Back in 1991, Burger King thought that it would be a good idea to let customers order their food between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m., then take a seat at their table, snack on free popcorn, and have their food brought to them. Most people really didn’t mind bringing their own food to their table, so this idea quickly fizzled out thanks to that old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
A giant cookie, topped with vanilla sauce and crumbled Oreos, served hot. What could go wrong? A whole lot, apparently. This attempt at a dessert pie appeared at Domino’s locations in 2007, was universally panned for being too sweet, chewy, and generally unappealing, and disappeared shortly thereafter.
The mid-2000s was the era of the “EXTREME,” and in 2005 Burger King attempted to cash in by pairing that with the growing trend of fast food breakfast sandwiches by introducing the Enormous Omelet Sandwich. Comprised of eggs, cheese, bacon, and sausage on a sesame seed roll (add ham and you’ve got the Meat’normous Omelet Sandwich), this artery-clogging overload performed well at first, but sales fizzled out once consumers realized that they probably didn’t want to eat 330 milligrams of cholesterol for breakfast.
On the surface, it was a good idea: serve a burger in a Styrofoam container with two separate compartments, one containing the hot beef patty and bottom bun and the other with the cool lettuce and tomato and the top bun. Put them together and you’ve got the perfect burger! The McDLT stuck around for six years between 1984 and 1990, but was discontinued due to complaints that the large amount of Styrofoam in the packaging was environmentally unfriendly.
Dunkin’ Donuts announced back in 2012 that in honor of their 60th anniversary, participating locations would be giving away free iced coffee for one day only. Sounds great, right? The catch: “participating locations” only existed in five states. When people showed up to their local DD’s expecting free iced coffee, they weren’t happy to be turned away, leading to a major headache for corporate and franchise owners alike.
$15 million went into marketing this Pizza Hut creation in 1985, which was essentially a pizza with two crusts, piled with meat and cheese, meant to resemble a deep-dish pizza. While sales were pretty good (and it’s still fondly remembered by many to this day), the fact of the matter was that it simply took too long to prepare, and it was removed from menus after a few years.
Taco Bell once had chili on its menu, and wrapped it up with cheese into a chili-cheese burrito. Those familiar with Frito pie (chili and cheese mixed up with Fritos inside the bag) can understand why Fritos would be an obvious addition, but most of the country just scratched their heads, and the item was discontinued. There remained a rabid fan base, however, so earlier this year the chain re-introduced Fritos to the menu in the form of the Beefy Fritos Burrito, with seasoned beef instead of chili.
Intended to offer some competition to Subway, these deli-style “artisan sandwiches” were rolled out in 2006. They sold decently, but their fatal flaw was assembly time: they took a lot longer to prepare than burgers. They disappeared from menus in 2007.