Anyone who watches television can testify that there are many food inventions that changed the world, almost. Some of these creations could straight up be leading characters in a fantasy novel. Many of them are so fantastical, that the world just isn’t ready for them. On today’s episode we are going to dive deep through history to see some of the crazier food inventions that have, or haven’t, stood the test of time.
Looking for Memories
Before I dive into food inventions that changed the world, I wanted to remind you that I’m always looking for people to come on the show and share their food memories. If you have a favorite food memory or family recipe, I want to know about it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get you on the show!
Stay In Your Lane Folks
As I started researching food inventions that changed the world…almost, one thing became apparent, stay in your lane. Food companies get in trouble when they start doing crazy things like McDonald’s making pizza or Colgate producing a line of frozen food.
Today’s episode is going to dive into some flops from Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and more. It’s a great adventure through food history and different products that almost changed the world.
When considering food inventions that changed the world…almost, I have to start with appliances. We all look for help in the kitchen. If I can buy something that will make my culinary life easier, sign me up. However, for every kitchen success, there are a host of failures. I guess they get points for trying.
- The Microwave Bank: Rewind to 1998. NCR is a company that supplies ATMs to the world. In the 90s a lot of banking was moving online. In an effort to stay relevant, NCR had a brilliant idea. Why not combine a microwave with a banking service. At the time, Stephen Emmot, the director of NCR’s Knowledge Lab, said, “Unlike the PC or the TV, the microwave is in the working center of the home – the kitchen – and it’s a device most people are familiar and comfortable with.” At the time a few banks were actually interested. Terry Davies, a vice president at CIBC’s electronic banking division said, “Maybe it’s going to be the microwave. Maybe it’s going to be the refrigerator. Maybe it’s going to be the washing machine. It’s all very exciting.” Now these are real quotes and it was a real device. Unfortunately, it flopped. I guess no one realized that the mobile phone was where they should have focused their banking efforts.
- Motorized ice cream cone: Have you ever been eating an ice cream cone and started to have the ice cream drip down one side? You then have to rotate the cone to that section and frantically lick to avoid a sticky disaster! Then you notice another drip has gotten past your focused attention. Back and forth, back and forth until the ice cream is done, or all over your hands. Now there is a motorized ice cream cone that does the turning for you. Just scoop in the ice cream, stick out your tongue and start her up baby! What could go wrong?? This is actually one invention you can buy today.
Fast Food Flops
Fast food is full of concept menu items that seemed like good ideas at the time, but flopped. Here are some that stood out to me.
- McDonald’s Arch Deluxe: McDonald’s had this crazy idea. Launch a new quarter pounder, give it a bunch of fancy ingredients, and pump a ton of money into the advertising campaign. The burger featured a potato bun, circular bacon, Spanish onions and a mustard mayo sauce. McDonald’s spent $150 million dollars advertising the burger and it still failed to take off.
- Burger King Satisfries: I never understand why fast food restaurants try to go healthy. It almost never ends well. In 2013, Burger King launched their Satisfries. They had 40% less fat and 30% fewer calories than other fries. They didn’t even make it a full year. Customers just don’t want healthy fries.
- McDonald’s Pizza: What makes a lot of sense? A burger giant trying to disrupt the pizza industry. In the late 80s McDonald’s launched a pizza concept. They had rolled it out to 40% of their locations by 1990. However, the ovens took up a lot of space and the pizza took a lot of time to cook. Both of those things went against everything McDonald’s stands for with speed and efficiency. Two locations in Ohio and West Virginia continued to sell the pizza until 2017.
- Wendy’s Superbar: The Wendy’s Superbar ran from the late 80s to the late 90s. It was a salad bar that offered customers all of the salad, fruit, pasta, and Mexican food that they could handle. Wendy’s couldn’t keep up with the demand and employees had a hard time cooking burgers AND keeping the Superbar stocked.
- Taco Bell Seafood Salad: McDonald’s launched the Filet O Fish in 1965. So naturally Taco Bell had to answer with their own seafood item. I mean, Taco Bell could have launched fish tacos and had a wild success, but they opted instead for a seafood salad. Naturally that menu item didn’t last long. Lack of orders and reports of food poisoning killed the item.
Pizza, Tacos, and Chicken!
- Pizza Hut Priazzo: In the mid 80s Pizza Hut had a brilliant idea. Lets take our standard pizza, give it two layers of crust, shove toppings and cheese in between those layers, and top it with meatballs. Pizza Hut spent $15 million advertising this pizza and it didn’t last long. The company pulled the pizza because it was too costly and time consuming to make.
- Taco Bell Waffle Taco: This menu item launched with Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu in 2013. I remember these well. I couldn’t wait to try one. Unfortunately, I was met with a soggy mess. I didn’t appreciate the cheesy and syrupy eggs. It was a little much. Taco Bell pulled it from the menu after 1 year.
- KFC Double Down: I still remember pulling through a KFC pick up window in 2010. I had seen the fabled double down advertised and this was the magical moment when I would be able to try it. The double down is a sandwich where they ditch the bread. Instead you are served 2 breaded and fried filets, 2 different kinds of cheese, 2 pieces of bacon and a drizzle of colonels sauce. My mind was blown when I found out you can still order one! I’m going to try this as soon as I can get to a KFC. I have been lamenting the fact that these are no longer on the menu for the past several years. Now I don’t have to live in my memories. They still have all the elements of the double down in their restaurant except for the colonels sauce. Sign me up!!
Colgate Frozen Meals: There is something I learned researching fast food flops. Stay in your lane! If you make burgers, stick with burgers. If you make pizza, stay with pizza. In the 1980s Colgate launched a line of frozen microwaveable meals. That would be the Colgate toothpaste company. That’s crazy!! It was also a major flop. Go figure.
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