1. Super Size
In the mid-1990s, McDonald’s launched a campaign allowing customers to “Super-Size” their meal for an added fee. For a while, the idea sold, and customers around the world were bulking up their orders, as well as calorie counts. After the release of the documentary Super-Size Me, which exposed the dangers of McDonald’s and fast food in general, the concept of super-sizing a meal went rapidly downhill, resulting in the company pulling it from menus in 2004.
2. Roast Beef Sandwich
McDonald’s spent years trying to figure out a way to compete with Arby’s, and in 1968 it released a roast beef sandwich on a roll with a packet of barbecue sauce on the side. Though it sold well, the menu item required equipping every location with a meat-slicer, an expense that would prevent the sandwich from ever turning a profit. Executives discontinued the sandwich as soon as they realized this, and roast beef has never returned to the menu.
3. Onion Nuggets
Introduced in the 1970s, McDonald’s onion nuggets were clumps of diced onions that were breaded and fried à la chicken nuggets. Even though these actually sound pretty tasty, they didn’t make it past the test market stage, and their successor — the Chicken McNugget — went national in 1983.
Introduced in 2013 as a potential “Subway buster” intended to attract a younger clientele, these potentially healthy-ish wraps came with your choice of fried or grilled chicken, cheese, bacon, a selection of sauces, and a couple ingredients that had never before been served at McDonald’s, like cucumbers. But they were incredibly labor-intensive to prepare (employees had to steam the tortilla, chop the ingredients, stuff and roll the wrap, and fit it inside a cardboard sleeve), and added to the stress already placed on employees caused by the addition of all-day breakfast. The underperforming menu item was scuttled this past April.
The McHotDog never caught on in terms of branding with the loyal McDonald’s client base, although many agreed it was a tasty product. The real problem was that in the eyes of seasoned patrons, the pallid hot dog didn’t match up with the rest of the tried-and-true menu items. In the mid-1990s the dog made a reappearance on seasonal menus in the Midwest, and the McHotDog has appeared from time to time in Japan and other countries.
6. McGratin Croquette
While the U.S. market never had the pleasure of experiencing a McGratin Croquette — a deep-fried patty made of macaroni, potato, and shrimp — customers in Japan certainly did. It didn’t last long on Japanese menus, and critics believed it was a combination of odd flavors and poor marketing that led to its ultimate demise.
The McCrab was created for the Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia markets. The item was meant to resemble a classic Chesapeake crab cake but was lacking in the fresh ingredient department, and quickly went the way of the Dodo.
8. Hula Burger
Back in the 1960s, a franchise owner was struggling with Friday sales due to being located in a predominantly Roman Catholic area during Lent. So he reached out to McDonald’s president Ray Kroc for ideas, and they each added a meat-free option to the menu to see which one sold better. Kroc’s idea was called the Hula Burger, an unappetizing-sounding burger with a grilled pineapple slice replacing the beef. The franchise owner’s idea? The Filet-O-Fish.
9. Arch Deluxe
McDonald’s spent more money on the advertising campaign for the Arch Deluxe in 1996 than it had on any other single item in its history. Costing the company more than $150 million to market, the Arch Deluxe — a quarter-pounder on a split-top potato bun — flopped, making the sandwich a very expensive mistake. The burger was geared toward adults, with add-ons like circular peppered bacon, leaf lettuce, Spanish onions, and a mustard-mayo sauce, and the unconventional ads included kids looking at the burger and saying things like, “I don’t understand what the big deal is.” When that approach didn’t work, new TV ads featured Ronald McDonald out partying and playing pool, a decided shift from the restaurant’s family-friendly image.
On the surface, it was a good idea: Serve a burger in a Styrofoam container with two separate compartments, one containing the hot beef patty and bottom bun and the other with the cool lettuce and tomato and the top bun. Put them together and you’ve got the perfect burger! The McDLT stuck around for six years between 1984 and 1990, but was discontinued due to complaints that the large amount of Styrofoam in the packaging was environmentally unfriendly.