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10 Surprising Facts About Fast Food
By Gregory Myers,
Toptenz, 30 December 2015.

Many of us eat fast food on a regular basis for reasons of sheer convenience. Sometimes we simply don’t have the time for much else, we’re already out, and it’s easy. Considering we deal with these food companies every day, and the ubiquity of information on the internet, we tend to think we already know most everything about them. However, there are still many facts out there about your favourite fast food joints that will surprise, amuse, and possibly even horrify you.

10. Wendy’s Chili Is Made With Old Meat


Wendy’s Chili is one of its most popular and iconic items. It’s something you certainly won’t find in most fast food joints, but Wendy’s serves an incredible amount of the stuff. However, while it is very popular, many of its fans may be turned off if they knew all about the process involved in making it. Since Wendy’s makes the claim that their hamburgers are “fresh, never frozen,” most people would probably assume that this is also the case for their chili. Unfortunately, those people would be wrong. The meat used in the chili is not fresh at all. It’s actually a cost saving idea that Dave Thomas came up with in order to constantly serve fresh burgers - especially during busy times - and not lose money on wasted product.

His solution was that during busy periods, the grill cooks would be frying a certain amount of hamburgers based on projected sales. Any burger sitting on the grill waiting for an order that passed a hold time was thrown into a warming bin. When the bin filled up these would be put in plastic bags and frozen, sometimes for days or weeks, before being thawed and made into Wendy’s chili. In other words, it’s the meat that Dave Thomas did not think was suitable for your hamburgers, so he hid it in your chili instead.

9. McDonald’s Is Testing A One Minute Drive Thru System


McDonald’s has been struggling in recent years. While they still have an insane amount of retail holdings, and business worldwide, the truth is that people are constantly looking for healthier options, and for many people the McDonald’s brand in general has become a bit stale. Even though it’s not really that much healthier, Subway has out edged McDonald’s as the fast food joint with the most stores open around the world, and newer casual dining restaurants like Chipotle are growing quickly and taking an enormous chunk out of the business the golden arches used to rely on.

This has led McDonald’s in recent years to take increasingly desperate measures to keep their competitive edge. In Florida recently they have been testing a new one minute drive thru system, in an attempt to bring people back to their stores and attract customers. Perhaps they figure that if they can’t have the best food, they can at least have the fastest service. This new expectation they are testing will offer customers a coupon for free food if the promised speed of service offered is not met. This seems likely to create an abusive system that will stress out employees and lose the company money overall, but time will tell if such a short wait time expectation will ever roll out nationwide.

8. Arby’s Turns Ridiculous Advertisement Into A Real Sandwich


Arby’s is known mainly for serving roast beef, and very little else. If you asked someone who wasn’t a regular customer at the store, or did their research on the matter, they might not really know that they serve much of anything else. Arby’s marketing department felt that this lack of recognition for their other products was a serious issue in terms of bringing in more customers, so they came up with an extremely conspicuous advertisement that would show everyone that they had all kinds of different meats. They showcased a picture of two buns with some of every single type of meat they carry, and plastered it everywhere they could. In a way the ad was a success because it did grant them a lot of publicity, but it also left people rather baffled.

Customers started coming in more, not to start asking for their variety of meats, but to ask for the specific sandwich in the ad that was piled to the heavens with a nice portion of every single meat on the menu. Arby’s, not wanting to miss a golden opportunity to make money and get more free publicity, added the sandwich to their menu, and dubbed it the “Meat Mountain.” For those wondering, the sandwich has roast beef, bacon, steak, chicken tenders, turkey, ham, corned beef, brisket, Swiss cheese and cheddar cheese - it is an absolutely monstrosity of meat and cheese.

7. Chipotle Prefers Inexperienced Employees


Chipotle is known for being on the cutting edge of the current dining trends (and, at present, for threatening your health with E. Coli). Casual dining has become extremely popular in comparison to regular old fast food experiences, and the minimalist atmosphere of Chipotle was a welcome relief to many. They are known for doing many things very differently, and in particular are known for their unique hiring practices. During interviews, it is normal to have one or more regular crew members interview a new employee, both to look for certain traits, and to see if they will be a good fit for the team dynamic at the store. They also don’t really want candidates with experience. They promote almost exclusively from within, and say on their website that no experience is actually preferred. Chipotle would rather have a blank slate with the right attitude traits to work with than a seasoned veteran.

The reason for this is actually very specific. Chipotle is nothing like traditional fast food, or even many restaurants. There are no freezers or cans at Chipotle and everything from the salsa to the guacamole is made fresh daily. Considering how radically different the entire food prep experience is, Chipotle feels that it will be easier to train people who are completely new, as opposed to re-teaching people who are used to the traditional methods of fast food preparation.

6. Dave Thomas Got His Start Helping Colonel Sanders


Dave Thomas is the well-known and beloved founder of the Wendy’s fast food franchise. He was an orphan himself, and started a charity designed to help orphans. He is also well known for the Wendy’s square burgers, and of course the iconic Frosty. However, while many people know quite a bit about Dave Thomas due to a marketing push a while back, many people don’t know the details of his success story. The truth is that Dave Thomas actually got his start working for Harlan Sanders of KFC fame. He was working under Sanders, helping with some stores in Indiana, and was eventually offered a sweet promotion and a deal he couldn’t refuse. The restaurants he was being sent to oversee were struggling, but if he could turn them around, Sanders would give him a huge stake in the now saved stores.

Thomas fixed the stores by greatly simplifying the menu, and also creating a huge bucket sign in order to attract attention. His marketing was a great success, and before long the two struggling stores were thriving once again. Thomas immediately sold his stake in KFC, and used the proceeds to start up Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. It was much longer before he got back into the chicken game at all, with Wendy’s just focusing on Hamburgers and Frostys in the beginning.

5. Colonel Sanders Hated What KFC Became


Most people know that KFC was originally created by Colonel Sanders, who originally began serving his chicken out of a gas station. Eventually he made enough money to start a restaurant, which tragically burnt down. Not to be deterred, he eventually rebuilt and started anew, selling his chicken with great success. Sadly for Sanders, when new roads were built nearby, it had the effect of losing him most of his business, and before long he had to shut down. He started traveling around franchising his chicken, and eventually the company became the enormous success it is today.

However, Colonel Sanders was a very hands-on gentleman, and was obsessed with things being done right. He would travel to KFC locations and berate people if he thought things weren’t up to his personal standards. Nearer to the end of his days, KFC was becoming so huge, that they decided to change the recipe for the chicken and gravy in order to better meet the advanced production needs. Sanders had a different vision, and thought that the new gravy and chicken were absolutely terrible. He attempted to start his own competing restaurant in protest, and ended up in a lawsuit battle with the company that he founded. While the demands of high volume food production do sometimes involve some shortcuts, we can sympathize with Sanders feeling that much of what he had created, and worked for, was being altered into something he felt was entirely worse.

4. Chick-fil-A’s Religious Values Go Well Beyond Closing on Sunday


Chick-fil-A is known for closing on Sundays due to the religious beliefs of its owners, and more recently, they were in the news over the marriage debate. One of the owners had donated large sums of money to groups that felt that gay-marriage should not be legally recognized, and many people boycotted the company. In order to fight this boycott, many people who were against gay marriage organized Chick-fil-A day in order to support the company and its traditional values. What many people don’t realize though, is that the donations against gay marriage are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the religiosity of the company.

While they do not discriminate if you are not religious - that would be illegal - they do believe very strongly in a very particular type of candidate, and they tend to push religious values as much as possible. Their founder, Truett S. Cathy has stated before that he asks his non-Christian employees to please practice biblical principles when it comes to business, and they strongly prefer married candidates. Cathy has stated that he would probably fire people if he knew they were committing serious sins, and many employees feel that the company in general gets far too involved in their personal lives, and has a somewhat cult-like atmosphere. It is also expected of you that if you come to work at Chick-fil-A, you will be there a long time. Cathy has stated before that he wants applicants asked if they plan to be with the company for life. If not, they need not apply.

3. Many Fast Food Soda Machines Contain Faecal Bacteria


A few years back, a college student in Virginia did a report where he tested for bacteria from a fast food soda machine. When potentially harmful bacteria was found, researchers in the area sprang into action to see if there was a widespread health issue. What they found was very disturbing. They tested 90 drinks from 22 different fountain soda machines in Virginia, and 90% of them contained some kind of bacteria that has the capability of at least making you mildly ill depending on the conditions. Researchers aren’t exactly sure how the bacteria is getting there, but they theorize it could have something to do with it being cleaned with an already dirty rag, or people touching the wrong parts of it with extremely filthy hands, but these are only guesses.

While this was only in parts of Virginia, it is likely that the problem is present in many soda machines throughout the country. It is unlikely that most of Virginia can’t get it right, and the rest of the country can. However, researchers do caution not to completely give up hope from the findings. While having E. Coli or other harmful bacteria in your drink is definitely not desired, the amounts present are unlikely to provide you with anything more than temporary discomfort. This is, of course, small comfort when confronted with the thought that bacteria from faecal matter is finding its way into your sodas.

2. Subway Lost A Class Action Lawsuit Involving Their 11 Inch “Footlongs”


Subway, the world’s largest fast food chain, has had kind of a rough time as of late. The revelations about their former spokesperson Jared, while not having anything to do with the company, have certainly not left a good impression with anyone. However, most people understand that, and are far more unhappy about Subway lying to them about the length of their sandwiches. For those who don’t remember, a couple years back a viral story surfaced about how Subway was actually only giving sandwiches that were about 11 inches for their footlongs. When confronted about this, the company actually tried to claim that footlong was “just a descriptive term” and not meant to be technically accurate.

Before long, Subway was facing a serious class action lawsuit from many consumers who felt that calling something a footlong for years, and then offering less than that, is pretty much the definition of deceptive advertising. As part of a class action settlement deal, Subway is agreeing to now measure all of their sandwich breads before preparing them for the customer, to ensure that they are getting the proper amount of bread. They will also send quality inspectors to make sure that their franchise locations are following the new standard properly. This has been incredibly embarrassing for Subway, but perhaps they and others will learn a lesson about deceiving their customers.

1. Cinnabon Bakes Empty Trays In Order To Attract People To The Smell


Cinnabon is an incredibly popular location for many. In some parts of the world, it can be hard to find one, so people will even go long distances out of their way in order to get their hands on some Cinnabon cinnamon rolls. It’s unsurprising that people are so enamored, they are famous for a reason and no one would deny that they taste good. However, the truth is that there is a reason that the memory of Cinnabon is so strongly entrenched in most people’s minds, even if they have only ever been near one, and have never actually purchased any of their food. The executives at Cinnabon long ago realized the psychological power of smell, and they clearly understand the effects it can have on memory, because they have been making very good use of it.

Cinnabon locations are actually strategically located near malls and airports for a reason - it’s better for getting you to notice the smell. In an enclosed store that you can only enter from outside, you can’t really be attracted to the smell, but in an open mall you can attract people from a long distance. The company also goes to great lengths to make the smell linger. Fresh cinnamon rolls are supposed to be baked at least every 30 minutes in order to keep the smell fresh, and some stores have even resorted to baking cooking sheets that are simply coated with the cinnamon and brown sugar to ensure the smell sticks around when needed. The company has found that keeping the ovens near the front of the store, and constantly bombarding people with the smell of their food, dramatically increases sales.

Top image: Subway footlong sandwich. Credit: Stephen Train/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image added.]