The Biggest Fast-Food Flops of All Time

Burger King Halloween Whopper

Burger King Halloween Whopper by Mike Mozart (CC BY-NC-ND)

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Not Lovin' It

Fast-food restaurants make some of our favorite guilty pleasures, many of which have reached iconic status. But it takes a lot of experimenting to score a hit the likes of the Big Mac, Whopper, or Frosty. Whether they missed the mark on taste, customer enthusiasm, or something else, here are some of the biggest fast-food flops from the past few decades, including a burger that's getting a second chance to impress math-challenged Americans.

Related: Fast Food Restaurants Then and Now

A&W 3/9 Pound Burger

A&W's 1/3-Pound Burger

Avert your eyes, math teachers, because this is going to be painful. In the 1980s, A&W released a 1/3-pounder to compete with McDonald's Quarter Pounder, complete with a "third is the word" marketing campaign. But the burgers didn't sell, and a market research firm discovered that it was because people thought 1/4 pound was larger than 1/3. Cringe. But all is not lost: Today, A&W is using the blunder to rebrand the 1/3-pound burger as the 3/9 Pound Burger, giving Americans exactly what they want: bigger numbers. 

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fried chicken
Chipotle Queso
Chipotle Queso by Marcus Quigmire (CC BY-SA)

Chipotle Queso

Long-demanded by Chipotle's customers, queso finally became an option at the prominent fast-casual chain — and was almost universally panned. The problem? Chipotle tried to stay true to its pledge to avoid artificial ingredients that are common in most types of the gooey cheese dip, throwing the texture and taste off for many customers. A new Blanco Queso came out in 2020, and the paler cheese sauce seemed to appease the critics.

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Pizza Hut Sweet Sriracha Dynamite Pizza
Pizza Hut Sweet Sriracha Dynamite Pizza by theimpulsivebuy (CC BY)

Pizza Hut 'Flavor of Now' Menu

Hungry for a bigger piece of the pie from millennial customers, Pizza Hut launched a menu in late 2014 that featured more innovative pizza ingredients, including honey-sriracha crust, Peruvian cherry peppers, and balsamic drizzles. But the attempt to make pizza upscale didn't exactly fly with consumers, forcing the chain to return to refocus on mainstream customers.

Burger King Halloween Whopper, Black Buns
Burger King Halloween Whopper, Black Buns by Mike Mozart (CC BY)

Burger King Halloween Whopper

Burger King aimed to scare up sales in 2015 with its Halloween Whopper, which featured buns tinted black with A1 steak sauce. What it actually got were social-media reports from customers who said the burger turned their bowel movements a frightening shade of green. That hasn't deterred Burger King from delivering scary food — it has since offered such Halloween-themed menu items as a burger promising to cause nightmares, a chicken sandwich with a green sesame bun, a Ghost Whopper with a cheese-flavored white bun, and ghost pepper nuggets.

McDonald's Chicken Caesar Premium McWrap Tomato Basil Wrap
McDonald's Chicken Caesar Premium McWrap Tomato Basil Wrap by theimpulsivebuy (CC BY-SA)
Long John Silver’s Big Catch Meal

Long John Silver's Big Catch Meal

Anchored by a massive piece of fried haddock, the Long John Silver's Big Catch Meal sank after its 2013 debut, when it was deemed the "worst restaurant meal in America" by the Center For Science in the Public Interest. Its crime? Having 33 grams of artery-clogging trans fats and a whopping 3,700 milligrams of sodium. Long John Silver's promptly axed the Big Catch, and it stopped using trans fats in its cooking oil by 2014.

Burger King Satisfries
Burger King Satisfries by theimpulsivebuy (CC BY-SA)

Burger King Satisfries

Another of Burger King's most high-profile flops, Satisfries were launched in 2013 in a bid to win over health-conscious customers. The new crinkle-cut fries had 40% less fat and 30% fewer calories than their traditional counterparts, according to Fortune. But customers weren't looking for a "healthy" French fry, and Satisfries were pulled from the menu within a year.

Related: Why McDonald's Fries Used to Taste Better

Friendly's Grilled Cheese Burger Melt
Friendly's Grilled Cheese Burger Melt by stefernie (CC BY-NC-ND)

Friendly's Grilled Cheese Burger Melt

In 2010, Friendly's debuted its Grilled Cheese Burger Melt. Unfortunately, the stomach-busting mashup of two comfort-food favorites turned out to have a shocking 1,500 calories and 97 grams of fat — in other words, nearly an entire day's worth of calories and more than a day's worth of fat for many people — and it was removed from the menu after the predictable outcry from health experts.

Related: These 17 Gut-Busting Cheeseburgers Have More Than 1,000 Calories

Ham lettuce tomato and provolone on a fresh baguette

Wendy's Frescata Sandwiches

Introduced in 2006, Wendy's hoped that its deli-style Frescata sandwiches would appeal to customers seeking a less-greasy burger alternative. But the made-to-order sandwiches took a while to prepare, and Wendy's decided that the sandwich "had run its course" and pulled it by the end of 2007.

Related: We Tasted All 9 Wendy's Breakfast Sandwiches and This Is the Best

Enormous Omelet Sandwich
Enormous Omelet Sandwich by Mark H. Anbinder (CC BY-NC-SA)
McDonald's Arch Deluxe

McDonald's Arch Deluxe

Few fast-food items have failed quite as prominently as McDonald's Arch Deluxe. Rolled out with a pricey ad campaign in 1996 in an effort to appeal to a more grown-up, "sophisticated" audience, the burger just didn't appeal to customers, who wanted convenience instead of culinary refinement from the Golden Arches.

McDonald's McLean Deluxe

McDonald's McLean Deluxe

With the McLean Deluxe, McDonald's bet that a low-fat burger would have loads of appeal. It had only 10 grams of fat, compared with 26 in a Big Mac, according to Forbes. But the taste of the meat, which included an additive extracted from seaweed, just didn't cut it for diners used to greasy fast-food burgers. It stuck around only for a few years after its 1991 debut.

YIP 70.365 Peanut Butter!
YIP 70.365 Peanut Butter! by Kara (CC BY-ND)

Dairy Queen Breeze

A "healthy" Blizzard may seem like an oxymoron, but that didn't stop Dairy Queen from trying to lighten up its classic soft-serve-and-candy treat. In 1990, it launched the Breeze, which was essentially a Blizzard made with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. Customers were unimpressed, and Dairy Queen admitted defeat when the frozen yogurt started going bad because of low demand.

McDonald's Pizza
McDonald's Pizza by Jason Meredith (CC BY)

McDonald's Pizza

McDonald's spent much of the '80s tinkering with its attempt to disrupt the pizza market, finally rolling out pizza to nearly 40% of its stores by 1990. But it turns out no pizza oven was fast enough for a McDonald's kitchen, so the burger giant gave up on its dream of domination by the slice. (Two rogue McDonald's in Ohio and West Virginia continued to sell pizza through August 2017, when they were finally forced to stop.)

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Hot food bar

Wendy's Superbar

The Wendy's Superbar had an impressive decade-long run from the late '80s to the late '90s, when it was finally phased out. Diners could get all the salad, fruit, pasta, Mexican food, and pudding they wanted for just a few bucks, and they did — in droves. The Superbar ended up a victim of its own success: Wendy's crews just couldn't keep it clean and stocked while serving up burgers, too.

Whole Deep Dish Pizza

Pizza Hut Priazzo

Pizza Hut spent $15 million on marketing during the mid-'80s launch of its gut-busting Priazzo pizzas, aimed at taking a bite out of the deep-dish pizza market. The pizzas had two layers of crust with layers of cheese and toppings in between. Though devotees proclaim their love of the Priazzo pies online to this day, Pizza Hut yanked it from the menu relatively shortly because it was too costly and time-consuming to make.

McDonald's McDLT

McDonald's McDLT

The concept for the McDonald's McDLT, introduced in 1985, was simple: It was a burger with lettuce, tomato, and mayo served up in a two-part container that kept the hot and cold ingredients separate (and supposedly) more appetizing. But by the early '90s, the burger went bye-bye. There were two possible reasons, according to Serious Eats: The Styrofoam containers fell out of favor because of environmental concerns, and some stores were still serving up the cold ingredients warm.

Mexican food: shrimp fajita salad in a crisp chalupa shell

Taco Bell Seafood Salad

This ill-fated mid-'80s Taco Bell menu item was supposedly rolled out to compete with the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish, which remains a menu staple at the Golden Arches to this day. The seafood salad didn't last long — reports of food poisoning may have hastened its demise — but you can still enjoy the commercial announcing its rollout on YouTube.

Grilled Pineapple

McDonald's Hula Burger

What's one of the biggest reasons we have our beloved Filet-O-Fish? It beat out another potential McDonald's menu item called the Hula Burger in a 1962 taste test. McDonald's chief Ray Kroc thought up the Hula Burger, which consisted of grilled pineapple and cheese on a bun, and pitted it against the Filet-O-Fish in select locations. The latter won in a landslide, and the rest is history.

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