7 Highly-Anticipated Fast-Food Launches That Flopped, According to Customers
In 2022, fast-food chains kicked menu innovation into high gear. McDonald's debuted a new version of the Quarter Pounder and McFlurry, Chipotle added Pollo Asado to its menu, Wendy's and Burger King simultaneously introduced Italian chicken sandwiches, and Arby's debuted its first-ever burger.
But not all product launches are created equal, and the year has seen just as many flops as successes in the quick-service industry. Here's a look at seven of the biggest "swing-and-a-miss" fast-food launches, according to customers.
McDonald's Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder with Cheese & Oreo Fudge McFlurry
Over the years, McDonald's has made plenty of adventurous attempts when it comes to introducing new menu items. That is until these two, not-so-new and "lazy" eats dropped in November, customers say. As soon as McDonald's announced the Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder with Cheese and the Oreo Fudge McFlurry, Redditors started an extensive thread to discuss how majorly disappointed they were.
Customers were saying things like, "Man what happened to mcdonald's? They used to come out with new menu items pretty regularly, now it's just a sauce. This all already exists." While others point out that while these items weren't officially on the menu, the ingredients are new and you can make them on your own as it is. "You can add hot fudge to any McFlurry already BTW," however, "at least now you don't have to pay 30 to 50 cents for it."
Wendy's Strawberry Frosty
Frosty's at Wendy's is like having presents on Christmas—absolutely classic and essential. That being said, not all the flavors in the past have been favorable to customers. In the summer of 2022 the chain launched a Strawberry frosty, which replaced the OG vanilla, but fans were not thrilled at all.
As highly anticipated as this customer-requested flavor was, many commented on the fact that it tasted more just 'sweet' than like strawberry. Some also thought that swapping out vanilla, which everyone loves, for strawberry was a bad move overall.
Pizza Hut Melts
Pizza Hut was smart to give customers more individualized options with this new menu item, but the end product wasn't as good as customers hoped. Business Insider reported that the Melts had a convenience factor that would be appealing. They beat getting a personal pizza and—because of its unique design—the toppings don't fall off.
But those who tried them noted that the Melts were like a folded pizza, which is not a new invention. "I just had one for the first time today. It is literally just two slices of thin crust pizza folded in half poorly with a side of marinara. So it's essentially just two slices of thin crust pizza. For $8 it's a steep cost when I could get a large on special for $10," said one.
Arby's Wagyu Steakhouse Burger
Arby's new Wagyu Steakhouse Burger debuted on May, pitched to consumers as a higher quality alternative to "mediocre fast-food burgers." In its 58 years of business, Arby's has never attempted a burger before, so the release of the Wagyu Steakhouse was a historical moment for the brand.
The premium burger's patty is 52% American Wagyu and 48% ground beef, and is cooked using a Sous Vide technique, giving it a "slightly pink center."
Early reviews took issue with the patty, however, with customers complaining of an "odd" and "slimy" texture. The Washington Post described the beef as "gummy" and "too compact," while The Takeout found that the Wagyu lacked the promised pink interior.
Issues with the beef's consistency and color may be due to the sous vide cooking technique, which involves cooking the beef at a controlled temperature. As the Washington Post points out, Arby's kitchens aren't equipped with grills, so the much-hyped sous vide preparation is really more of a workaround than anything else—and a disappointing one at that!
While some customers panned the burger, Arby's reported that the first release sold out and the company brought the burger back in November.
Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza
Taco Bell brought back its fan-favorite Mexican Pizza in May following a two-year hiatus, and hype for the re-release couldn't have been greater. Taco Bell fans have been demanding Mexican Pizza's return almost non-stop since its retirement, flooding the "Save The Mexican Pizza" Change.org petition with over 170 thousand signatures and heckling Taco Bell on Twitter. Along the way, celebrities like Doja Cat and Dolly Parton have lent their support to the cause.
A reviewer for The Street observed that the new shell has "less of the lip-smacking flavor of the original" and is "a bit more flour heavy." A disappointing conclusion to a two-year wait, but them's the beans.
Burger King's Whopper Melt
For the release of its Whopper Melt line, Burger King took its cue from Taco Bell's Chicken Taco campaign, inviting customers to debate whether the Whopper Melt—a handheld sandwich—was "really a Whopper."
The Whopper Melt is served on toast and straddles the line between a patty melt and a classic BK Whopper—so in theory, there's plenty of room for debate as to its correct categorization.
There were also complaints about the "toast": customers shared photos of Whopper Melts served on what looks like straight-out-of-the-bag Wonder Bread, and others took issue with the bread's slice size and flavor (which The Washington Post found to be too sweet). Overall, the Whopper Melt failed to melt customers' hearts.
Popeyes' Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich
Almost three years after the debut of its Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Popeyes surprised fans with an update of the classic menu item: the new Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich. The limited-time release offered a spicy take on the chain's most famous sandwich, bringing the same crispy chicken filet customers love but coating it with a creamy herb buttermilk ranch and buffalo sauce.
Customers were divided on the new sandwich. Some have given it high praise, calling it "delicious," "fire emojii" and "a good choice for lunch." But others have pointed out that the LTO is little more than a sauce swap—a lazy re-release of the standard sandwich, dressed up with a few tablespoons of Buffalo Ranch.
In fact, according to some, the new sandwich is indistinguishable from Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Thrillist's Janae Price offered a similar review, admitting that, if asked to differentiate between the two sandwiches in a blindfold taste test, she would not be able to.
A version of this story was originally published in May 2022. It has been updated to include new information.