Fast food is extremely popular, but not the hungry, convenience-and-beef-craving populace happily devours every burger. Here are some sandwiches that the world either declined en masse…or which barely ever existed.
THE HULA BURGER
Cincinnati has a large Roman Catholic population, and in 1962, area McDonald’s franchisee Lou Groen noticed that during Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, business dropped off precipitously on Fridays. The reason: observant Catholics don’t eat meat on Lenten Fridays. He came up with a way to bring people back: a fish sandwich. He developed the fish-stick-on-a-bun menu item, dubbed the Filet-O-Fish, and pitched it to McDonald’s boss Ray Kroc. He didn’t like the idea, because he had his own beef-free alternative sandwich in the hopper: the Hula Burger, a grilled pineapple and cheese sandwich. (Yep, just fruit n’ cheese.) Kroc and Groen submitted to a Good Friday contest — whichever sandwich sold the most would win a spot on the McDonald’s menu. It wasn’t even close: Groen’s Filet-O-Fish outsold the Hula Burger by a margin of 350 to 6.
THE BELL BEEFER
Taco Bell has long used the slogan “think outside the bun” as a way to differentiate itself and its Mexican-inspired cuisine from sandwich-and-burger-based competitors. And yet for a very brief time in the early ‘80s, the chain attempted to sell what was essentially, a hamburger. The Bell Beefer consisted of the ingredients of a standard Taco Bell taco placed between a bun: seasoned taco meat, shred lettuce, and diced tomatoes.
THE ARCH DELUXE
Perhaps sensing the rise of slightly fancier fast food places like Panera and Chipotle, McDonald’s tried to class up its fare in 1996 with the Arch Deluxe. The company spent millions developing the burger…and $150 million on an elaborate ad campaign, including the Deluxe Line Dance — yes, a wannabe fad dance craze. From a 2019 perspective, the burger wasn’t all that fancy — it came with peppered bacon, cherry tomatoes, and “Arch sauce,” a mixture of mustard and mayonnaise. But it was so radically different that McDonald’s patrons aggressively avoided it. It was off the menu by the end of the year. Despite the failure, in early 2018 McDonald’s launched a trial do-over with a sandwich called the Archburger. (That flopped, too.)
THE ENORMOUS OMELETTE
Everybody knows that most fast food is very unhealthy, loaded with (delicious) saturated fat and (delicious) sodium. But some fast food items are just too much fast food…or it seems that people don’t to start their day with an assault on the stomach. In 2005, Burger King temporarily sold the Enormous Omelette Sandwich. It was made up of a long sesame seed roll stuffed with eggs…and some cheese slices…and three pieces of bacon…and a couple of sausage patties, too. Also present: 330 milligrams of cholesterol and nearly 2,000 milligrams of sodium. (That’s a lot.)