The world of fast food is filled with a litany of different dishes that were sold for a short period of time before being discontinued.
In some cases, they were simply not popular enough to justify the expense of continuing to sell them. In other cases, the brand is deliberately moving away from the image the dish helped them cultivate such as especially unhealthy dishes.
In other cases still, it was always meant to be a limited edition item such as the McRib, but it is rare for an entire meal to be discontinued by virtue of its unusual fast food packaging.
However, this was the story of the McDLT, and it turned out to be the prelude to McDonald’s biggest financial failure in its history.
Hot And Cold
In the 1980s Mcdonald’s was starting to face serious competition from Burger King, who had started to actively attack the size of the hamburgers McDonald’s was selling whilst increasing the size of their own flagship Whopper.
This was during a period in advertising history known as the Burger Wars, where the leading fast food chains would target each others’ purported weak points. This led to campaigns such as Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” campaign and a number of additional menu items attempting to capture revenue from each other.
With the Quarter Pounder not seen as strong enough competition for the Whopper, Mcdonald’s went all out with their next attempt, creating a burger so unique and groundbreaking that they created their own patented container for it.
It was called the McDLT, and it was literally a burger of two halves. On one side were the meat and the bottom bun that had been heated up, whilst the other half had the top bun, the lettuce, tomato, cheese, gherkins and burger sauces.
The idea was that a consumer would buy the extra-long double box and put the burger together themselves, keeping the salad cool and theoretically making it look and taste fresher.
It was launched in 1984 and it was successful enough to last until the end of the decade. However, its biggest innovation turned out to be its greatest weakness.
By the 1970s, Mcdonald’s had switched from cardboard boxes to the environmental blight that is styrofoam containers, and the nature of the McDLT required a bespoke styrofoam box.
In the late 1980s, people were turning against styrofoam due to the fact it was exceptionally polluting to produce, could not be recycled at all and used fossil fuels ten years after a major oil crisis.
At the time the Whopper used a paperboard box and would launch a series of attack ads targeting McDonald’s record on the environment. The golden arches discontinued the McDLT as the most visible offender.
However, this was not the end of McDonald’s troubles. The McDLT became the McLean Deluxe, the first in McDonald’s ill-fated first attempt to target an older demographic before it was replaced with an even more infamous burger.
The McDonald’s Arch Deluxe is one of the most famous commercial failures in the history of fast food, costing the company $300m, although it would ultimately use some of that money to market its salads and the Arch Deluxe eventually became the Big Tasty, which is still on the menu.