Fast Food Lies: Meals That Don't Live Up to Their Ads

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kfc doublicious bothOkay, no one walks into a burger joint expecting a $2 hamburger to look big, thick, and meaty. But every fast food restaurant seems to have one or two "fancy," high-ish-end items on their menu that come with high-ish expectations, especially when you see the photo. And these items are usually quite a bit more than your typical value meal sandwiches, often more around $5.

So how well does the fancy fast food hold up to the fantasy? Do we have the right to expect a little more for our money when we shell out the, well, medium bucks for a burger? I took a look at four menu items in real life to find out.

Burger King Smoky Cheddar Steakhouse XT Burger

burger king smoky cheddar steakhouse xt burger
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burger king smoky cheddar steakhouse xt burger
The real thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who haven't seen all the commercials, the XT stands for "extra thick." Compared to what? Paper? I do see the split down the center of the bun (for what that's worth) and it does appear to have the same ingredients, though I don't think I'll ever see any fast food place really pile on the greens. Also, this has to be the thinnest-sliced bacon I have ever seen in my life. Seriously, up close it was actually transparent.


KFC Grilled Doublicious Sandwich

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Once again, sad lettuce adorns the sandwich. Is romaine really that much more expensive than iceberg? The chicken does live up to the quantity promised in the photo, though I didn't see grill marks. Still, lettuce aside, this sandwich comes pretty close to the advertisement.

 

McDonald's Angus Deluxe Snack Wrap

Mcdonalds angus deluxe snack wrap
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Mcdonalds angus deluxe snack wrap
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Was someone supposed to ask me if I wanted a pickle and onions? At least the colors are true-to-life this time, including the lettuce. But I had to unwrap the wrap almost halfway to find the meat. It was like a treasure hunt! So yeah, not exactly bursting with ingredients. Also, it's a little hard to tell from the photo, but the beef appears to be the meat equivalent of particle board, not an actual cut of steak as it appears in the advertisement. But this particular item is relatively cheap (under $2), so at least I feel like I got what I paid for.


Wendy's Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

Wendy's apple pecan chicken salad
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Wendy's apple pecan chicken salad
The real thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hold on! The real thing actually looks better than the advertisement. WTF Wendy's, are you trying to mess with my head? Also, I see a variety of greens (yeah, iceberg still in there) and chunks of apple with the skin still on. The chicken isn't cut up but oddly enough there appears to be more (???) in the actual salad than in the advertisement.

 

Pizza Hut Veggie Lover's Pizza

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Those Pizza Hut people, they make it tricky to capture the pop-up image of the veggie lover's pizza. It's like they know what I'm up to. Am I being paranoid? Anyway, notice the thin-ish crust here in the advertisement, the caramelized onions, the slim green pepper slices.

veggie lover's pizza
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Now see what appears to be a salad bar dumped on top of pizza dough. And that's some thick crust. How does Pizza Hut even stay in business here in New York, thin-crust country?

 

Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme

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Okay, we have to do this one in parts...

crunchwrap supreme
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crunchwrap supreme
Interior, side 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

crunchwrap supreme
Interior, side 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn't slice the thing in half for the perfect cross-section view, but you get the point, right? A crisp tostada covered on one side with tomatoes, sour cream, and lettuce, and on the other side with ground beef, nacho sauce on both sides, all wrapped in a flour tortilla. An ill-conceived idea probably better left in the ream of the imagination. I guess it gets hard to reinvent Mexican fast food after a while, but this is one hot mess.


Chipotle Chicken Burrito

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Which brings me to Chipotle. At the suggestion of a reader I visited this place for the first time. I know, what took me so long, right? All my foodie friends tell me this is the only fast food restaurant they'll eat at. No bells or whistles here--it's an old-style, small-menu burrito bar.

chipotle chicken burrito
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And look at that--pretty much what I was promised! It's huge and packed. And if I really want them to pile on the greens they will. Does this even count as fast food? Dang, Chipotle, I thought you were all hype but turns out you live up to the good press.

So there you go -- fast food fantasy and reality.

Are you getting your money's worth? Meh. Fast food is supposed to be cheap, but for around $3 I could make a grass-fed bacon cheeseburger or a really big steak wrap. And for about $2 I could make my own free-range grilled chicken sandwich or chicken, heirloom apple, and pecan salad (using more flavorful thigh meat, and probably still come out with a lower calorie count). But the Chipotle burrito? With customization and fresh, ethical, quality ingredients I'd say it's worth the $7.

Still, Chipotle is the exception that proves the rule: I think fast food joints charge a disproportionately greater amount for the "fancy" menu items than for the more basic items.

Are you disappointed when a fast food meal looks a lot better in the pretty ad?


Images via KFC, Burger King, Adriana Velez, KFC, Adriana Velez, McDonald's, Adriana Velez, Wendy's, Adriana Velez, Pizza Hut, Adriana Velez, Taco Bell, Adriana Velez,Chipotle, Adriana Velez.

eating out, food