The '90s were wild. It was a time when frosted tips, Tamagotchis, and McDonald’s attempt at fine dining coexisted. In an era dominated by oversized jeans and boy bands, the brand experienced one of its biggest (and priciest) marketing flops when it sought to create a burger that would appeal to more sophisticated consumers. The burger, known as the Arch Deluxe, was even promoted with its own bottle of booze, dubbed the Deluxe Line Wine.
The Arch Deluxe, for those who weren’t fortunate enough (or unfortunate, depending on who you ask) to try, was a bizarre creation marketed as an upscale burger for adults. And what's more grown-up than pairing your burger with a glass of wine? McDonald's — always keen to think outside the (Happy Meal) box — decided to go big or go home with this one.
For more fun consumer news and nostalgic blasts from the past, please sign up for our free newsletters.
A Burger Before Its Time?
Back in 1996, McDonald's tasked head chef Andrew Selvaggio with creating a burger that was "unique and different to set [the brand] apart from everybody," Eater reports. According to Selvaggio, the Arch Deluxe was "supposed to be the first entry into a better burger — premium burger — experience for McDonald’s.” The burger featured a quarter pound of beef, peppered bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions, and a "secret" mustard-mayo sauce, as described by a McDonald's fandom page.
The company went on to spend upwards of $200 million on advertisement for its new Arch Deluxe line — complete with a swanky launch at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago. During the event, attendees were also treated to pours of a promotional (and low-alcohol) Deluxe Line Wine. Amid all the glamour and gourmet ambitions, one patron thought it would be a good idea to hang onto a bottle and save it for posterity.
According to a recent Instagram post from Consumer Time Capsule, the user "recently acquired" the commemorative bottle for an unknown amount — and people could be seen having a field day in the comment section. "Looking a little brown in there," one user jokingly writes, while another says, "I’ve heard ‘96 was an excellent year for McWine."
A Toast to the Past
Despite its grand introduction and McDonald's marketing team pulling out all stops, the Arch Deluxe line went down in history as one of the company's and fast food's most memorable flops. Maybe it was more sophistication than people were looking for in a cheap burger. Perhaps it was the pairing of fast food and wine that people just couldn't get behind. Or did Ronald McDonald not look convincing enough in a tux? Guess we'll never really know.
Though the Arch Deluxe has long been retired, and any remaining Deluxe Line wine bottles are likely gathering dust on some collector's shelf, we love reminiscing of a time when fast food brands tried to wine and dine us. So, here's to the Arch Deluxe — you may not have won the hearts (or taste buds) of many, but you sure did leave us with some cool memorabilia.