Fast Food’s Secret Menu Problem

fastfoodClocking in at 800 calories with 53 grams of fat and 2,430 milligrams of sodium, Burger King’s Suicide Burger certainly lives up to its name. This outrageous creation features four patties, four slices of cheese and loads of bacon all slathered in special sauce. The existence of this burger brings to mind many troubling questions, not least of which is, “Why would Burger King offer such an abomination to their customers?” Well, as strange as it may seem, they technically don’t.

The Suicide Burger is a “secret” item that people won’t see on any standard BK menu. Intrepid customers unburdened by regard for a sensible diet devise these outrageous offerings and spread awareness of them through social media. Other adventurous eaters then head to their local fast food joint to request these concoctions themselves, often to the staff’s confusion. Some managers keep track of how to prepare and price the most common secret items. If that course of action fails, though, the customer must simply explain to the person at the register that yes, they would like a McChicken patty added to their Big Mac, please and thanks. That’s called a McGangBang, by the way, a name that certainly did not come from the McDonald’s marketing department.

Brand management may be the least of the industry’s worries when it comes to secret menus, however. Laws in several states require fast food restaurants to display the calorie counts of their listed menu offerings. Although secret items and limited-time offerings are exempt from these laws, as time passes and people talk about things like the Suicide Burger then they will cease to be “secret” anymore. If these items become common knowledge to customers, fast food chains may be required to post them on their standard menus along with calorie counts. Just imagine walking into a Chipotle and seeing the Quesarito—a burrito wrapped in a cheese quesadilla—proudly listed on the board next to an addendum reading “1,500 calories.” At that point, most companies would likely take the logical course of action and simply stop offering these monstrosities masquerading as food to the public.

 

Questions:

  1. Is it fair for fast food restaurants not to post the calories of secret menu items?
  1. What is the primary role of calorie posting laws?

 

Source: Elaine Walker, “Beware of Calorie Counts in Secret Menu Items,” The Miami Herald, March 19, 2013; Shareen Pathak and Maureen Morrison,” Ad Age, March 11, 2013. Photo by Don Buciak II.

 

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