There is a common saying in the restaurant world that the first taste is with the eyes, and in fast food that means that the presentation of the packaging is critical to the success of a product.
Whilst there are many studies on this, the case study to keep in mind is that McDonald’s managed to sell children’s meals almost entirely on the strength of their Happy Meal brand and packaging.
By contrast, there are plenty of fast food items that have underperformed precisely because of unappealing, confusing or impractical packaging choices, making it critical to work with professionals and order from the best.
McDonald’s packaging exploits have run the gamut from the most successful piece of fast food packaging ever made to one so infamously ill-conceived that it caused a meal item to be discontinued.
The McDLT had a very unusual box which effectively split the burger into two sections in a giant burger box. The theory would be that you had a hot section for the burger and a cold section for the fresh salad and you would only put them together when it was time to eat it.
The problems were multiple; first of all, several McDonald’s restaurants did not have the facilities to take advantage of the strange box, but the bigger issue is that it necessitated the use of polystyrene.
Complaints from environmental groups quickly ended the sandwich, and it would take many other failed attempts before McDonald’s finally got it right with the Big Tasty.
BK Dinner Baskets
The 1990s were filled with unusual and esoteric fast food trends that ultimately failed, and one of the strangest was the idea of fast food restaurants providing table service.
After the infamous failure of the McPizza, Burger King decided to have a go with the BK Dinner Baskets, an attempt to bring the fast food chain upmarket, serving meals in themed baskets and providing rather unusual dishes such as fried clams or a shrimp dinner alongside the Whopper.
It did not work at all, and despite extensive marketing, the Dinner Basket was discontinued quickly, generally considered to be an exercise in pretension.
Enormous Omelette Sandwich
The idea of a huge omelette sandwich filled with eggs, bacon, sausage and topped with cheese sounds like a winning meal, and unlike the last two, there were no explicit packaging blunders that made the Enormous Omelette Sandwich a failure.
The problem, instead, was the first word. “Enormous” is the correct term for a breakfast sandwich that had more fat than Burger King’s whopper, but it was expected to be consumed at a time when people tend to prefer a relatively light meal instead.
Had it been sold as an evening meal item similar to an “all-day breakfast” it might have had a chance, but sold at breakfast it did not have much of a chance and it was quickly discontinued.
Ironically, Burger King would have the opposite problem with their somewhat infamous Satisfries experiment in 2013, a low-fat fries option that failed to help BK’s image and attract health-conscious customers.