Bloated fast food menus, the bell tolls for thee

Photo: Lacheev (iStock)

As Bruce Springsteen once sang, “Everything dies, honey that’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.” Yes, Bruce was talking about dreams and also Atlantic City, but the sentiment could be applied to anything really, including fast food and (hopefully) our beloved Cool Ranch Doritos Loco Taco, which left the Taco Bell menu forever last week.

MSNBC published an interesting explainer over the weekend about why some menu items disappear forever, while others—Mountain Dew Baja Blast, we’re looking at you—live on indefinitely. Basically, it all comes down to profitability, which you have probably already guessed. Some menu items simply aren’t bringing in enough money to recoup the cost of ingredients and marketing.

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But also, as menu engineering consultant Greg Rapp tells MSNBC, the ideal number of items in any menu category is seven or fewer. Anything longer than that makes customers spend too much time making up their minds, which slows down lines at both the counter and in the drive-thru and, subsequently, the kitchen. This year has dealt a blow to long fast food menus, and not just at Taco Bell. McDonald’s also ditched its Signature Crafted burgers and paved the way for a smaller all-day breakfast menu as it tries to become more efficient.

There’s some good news, though: The ingredients for discontinued items remain in restaurants after their official death to appease angry customers.

“What we typically do is keep it in the kitchen for 60 days or so, so we’ll have it available, but then the next time the person comes in, they’ll have forgotten about it,” Rapp said.

This probably says something important about our culture and how disposable everything is and how short our memories are and, oh, wait, what was I saying?

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About the author

Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.