Before all-day breakfast, these 5 McMenu innovations failed spectacularly
By Tim Townsend
McDonald’s Corp. said in a statement this week that its introduction of an all-day breakfast menu helped the struggling fast food giant post its best quarterly growth numbers in four years.
The company is flexible from its roots. In 1940, Richard and Maurice McDonald originally opened a barbecue restaurant with carhop service in San Bernardino, California, but eight years later they decided to focus on hamburgers. When Ray Kroc bought the restaurant in 1954, the expansion — and experimentation — really began.
For the last 60 years McDonald’s has tried all kinds of innovations to keep people coming back. This time, executives listened to their 27 million daily customers in the US who’d been clamoring for an Egg McMuffin at 4 p.m. But attempts at divining the American culinary mood have been less successful.
In the 1950s, Americans were all about creaming stuff — whirring up leftovers with milk, butter or cream, then dumping the concoction over noodles. Creamed turkey. Creamed asparagus. Creamed onions. In 1958, Kroc went on a creaming tear, offering customers a range of creamy masses.
The first McCreamy Select out of the gate was McCreamed Pork Joint, but it wasn’t a big seller. After a couple more efforts — McCreamed Herring ‘N Apples, McCreamed Lemon Lamb — with no takers, Kroc killed the experiment.
Tiny Fried Monkeys
McDonald’s didn’t introduce the Happy Meal for kids until 1979, but 15 years earlier, a franchisee in Mesa, Arizona named Fred Lickenhouse saw what he thought was an opportunity in the Sea-Monkey fad sweeping the nation. Sea-Monkeys were really Artemia salina, brine shrimp in a state of cryptobiosis. But they were marketed by the Transcience Corporation as pets, and kids could see the powder they received in the mail come to life when water was added.
Lickenhouse thought kids would also like the taste the tiny prawns, so he put them on the menu as Tiny Fried Monkeys. Crying children and the threat of a lawsuit from Transcience Corporation helped to quickly remove them.
Broccoli San Vincente
Americans had named foods for their origins for a long time — Baked Alaska, Philadelphia cheesesteak. But as air travel became more popular in the 1970s, menu writers tried to take advantage of that sense of adventure and it seemed every food was named for a place. Several McDonald’s owners followed suit between 1976 and early 1978, but as in the wider culture, the trend spiraled out of control and foods were named after places for no real reason.
The result was a glut of food-named-for-places — Acapulco Glazed Beefies, Barbecued Versailles Loaf, Mariana Trench Fisherman’s Find, Tangy Punjab Cucumber Ring, Sour-Cream Noodle Bake Algiers and Fanciful Ham Rolls Toledo.
The nouvelle cuisine revolution of the 1980s gave way to a bolder trend in the ’90s — the “tall food” movement. Chefs built 12-inch shoestring potato towers, asparagus spear formations and high, layered Dagwood sandwiches. In 1998, Lanie Schtischs, owner of 29 McDonald’s franchises in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, began selling Mighty McTalls — 7-inch columns of layered McDonald’s protein — Big Mac patty, McChicken breast, McRib and Fillet-O-Fish — separated by beds of french fries for $26.99.
The item went nowhere, but Schtischs was sure tall food would work in Texas, so she doubled down, introducing the Massive McBeefstack, 64 Quarter Pounder patties supported by a latticework of McNuggets. Only one was ever made, and the Dallas County government subsequently sued Schtischs for “disgustingness.”
Looking to exploit Brooklyn hipster cool, McDonald’s Corp executives in Oak Brook, Illinois gave their test kitchen a secret mission, dubbed McArtisanal Experiment. In 2009, they chose a McDonald’s restaurant in Harlan, Indiana, north of Fort Wayne, to assess the wider demand for the artisan pickles and beef jerky outside the country’s urban centers.
Customers were first intrigued by the idea of McDonald’s Small Batch Oat Bratwurst, but then they tasted it, and they were no longer intrigued. The Reclaimed Jalapeño Bacon Wand DeLuxe fared equally badly. As did the (slightly polluted) Local Lake-to-Table McHagfish, the Hand-Fingered Sriracha Pudding Melt, the Wild-Yeast Fermented McBeet Compote and the Organic-Rolled Meat Tube.