KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For those of you old enough remember, the original fast-food was provided when taking car trips with the family — pre-packed sandwiches made by Mom. Our sandwiches were primarily ham salad, egg salad or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches between two slices of Wonder bread wrapped in waxed paper and placed inside a crumpled brown paper bag. We also had two thermos jugs of lemonade with small plastic cups to help us wash it all down.
The sandwiches weren’t refrigerated, became soggy after several hours on the road…but did they ever taste good once your stomach started growling while riding in the back seat of our hot, cramped, non-air conditioned 1950 Ford.
Time passed rapidly and fast-food began to take hold throughout the US. When I was a younger business traveler, I was far more discriminating when it came to choosing places to dine for breakfast, lunch and dinner while on the road. Fast-food wasn’t in the cards at that time. But as time passed and my business travels became more frequent and on a tighter schedule, I began to appreciate the benefits of fast-food — you generally can get in and out of the restaurant fast, it’s less expensive and in the case of major chains, the food quality is consistent. There are few if any major surprises.
Over the years, I’ve endured many unusual business dining experiences traveling to and from meat and poultry plants ranging from having to eat at a small six-table pizza house because it was literally the only restaurant in the small Iowa town I was visiting to a buffet restaurant in one small Oklahoma town—again because the buffet format was the only restaurant format in that small town. I even dined from a vending machine (cookies, crackers and Diet Coke) in one hotel in a small Texas town because everything in town was closed by the time I arrived at my hotel.
One fast-food chain I frequent the most today while on the road, primarily because they’re everywhere, is McDonald’s. But as fate will have it, my favorite McDonald’s fare is a limited-time offering (McRib) — and you never know when it’s going to pop up on their menu. And the Angus third-pounder launched in 2009 only to be discontinued during the first half of 2013 was another one of my favorites. Apparently, its price range ($4 to $5) was too much for many McDonald’s customers, industry insiders have said.
Of all the fast-food chains, McDonald’s seem most willing to take risks by offering more new product introductions than their competitors. But being a pioneer, they also have their share of arrows in their back.
Some McDonald’s products that have come and gone over the years were mentioned in several articles I found online. Some of these products covered I remember and liked, others I remember and didn’t like — and still others I don’t recall at all. Such products include the Hula Burger, which featured a slice of pineapple instead of a meat patty; McPizza, which apparently took too long to prepare; Big N' Tasty bit the dust after McDonald’s expanded its Angus burger line. In 1996, McDonald's reportedly spent $100 million marketing its Arch Deluxe, which featured peppered bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, ketchup and secret sauce, but it didn’t fly with consumers for some reason; McHotDog apparently came and went, and I never knew it; in 1991, the McLean burger launched and was advertised as 91 percent fat-free —McDonald's replaced fat with carrageenan and water, and customers apparently didn’t like the taste; and the McDLT, which was launched in the 1980s, was packaged in a Styrofoam container that kept the lettuce and tomato separate so the veggies stayed cool — but it died on the vine due to environmental concerns related to its packaging.
Last Monday morning, I tried McDonald’s new, limited-time only chorizo (style) breakfast burritos (two for $3), which recently launched in 2,000 stores in the Midwest, Texas and Hawaii. The wraps are made with dark-meat chicken instead of the traditional pork chorizo sausage, and include scrambled eggs, Roma tomatoes, green chilies, onions and white cheddar cheese. The chicken is flavored with chorizo seasoning that includes paprika, chili and chipotle pepper, Bloomberg relayed. McDonald’s also recently launched its jalapeño burger, which I haven’t tried yet.
McDonald’s pioneering spirit and steady pipeline of new product introductions is impressive and always interesting. My hope is that someday McRib will become a permanent item on their menu and that the Angus burgers will return — even as LTO offerings. You can bet that I’ll look for the Golden Arches again on my next plant trip to see what new items have been added to its menu.