Even though Silicon Valley tech companies get all the credit, fast-food chains are some of the great innovators of our time. They are constantly adding new offerings to their menus and/or packaging existing items in new deals, generating excitement and buzz in the marketplace. Sometimes these innovations are true strokes of genius (making a taco shell out of Doritos); other times they are flops (dyeing a burger bun black for Halloween and thus altering the color of the consumer's stool. More on that later.)
More often than not, this column will be exploring these new, wondrous culinary creations. Most recently, however, I was drawn to a deal, an offer from Wendy's for four items—a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, a four-piece nugget, fries, and a soda—for a mere $4. Hot damn, that's a good price. And a whole lot of food. Even though I am of generous proportions, I wasn't sure I could eat the whole thing, and I wanted to put myself up to the challenge. So I drove to my nearest Wendy's, a recently refurbished location just off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It didn't have it.
Then, I drove the car I borrowed from my roommate to the next Wendy's I could think of, on York Road south of the Senator Theatre. Stymied again!
Now, as you probably know, all advertisements from fast-food restaurants offer the disclaimer, either in small print or by a fast-talking announcer, that these new sandwiches and value meals are only available at participating locations. Fair enough. But in all my years of fast-food eating, it's been incredibly rare to find a location NOT offering the latest concoction from the corporate office. That's what gets pushed out on the airwaves and in print ads, the hot new thing that makes customers say, "Oh, I want that." These are the inventions that get big splashy posters inside and outside the restaurant, tempting customers in line at the drive-thru or counter. Somehow I had gone 0-for-2 at two Wendy's locations in the city. Previously, I had attempted to write on the Halloween Whopper—the poop-changing sandwich mentioned above—and came up empty-handed at a downtown Burger King, a full 10 days before Halloween had even arrived.
What gives? Why would you choose not to participate, not to give the people what they want? Is that too much food for that price? Is Wendy's HQ sticking it to the franchisees?
I probably could have thrown some more gas money my roommate's way and kept driving until I found a Wendy's outpost in the county making good on the 4 for $4 deal. But John and Jane Q. Public would not have time for such a pursuit, nor are they driven to do so in the name of journalism. They would simply take their business elsewhere, and that's what I did.